Dealership Success: “Futurish” Shock
By Shawn Horsewill, VP Customer Success, Work Truck Solutions
I’ve written quite a bit about commercial vehicle shows in this publication, including NADA 2023 and WTW 23. In this issue, I’d like to talk about the Commercial Vehicle Business Summit (CVBS) Spring 2023, which was hosted by none other than Work Truck Solutions.
The CVBS is the only major virtual summit dedicated solely to the growing commercial vehicle industry. And forgive me if I’m a little biased, but I believe it is also the number one place to soak up the collective wisdom of experts from data/market research firms, vehicle manufacturers, upfitters, finance providers and venture capitalists, fleet management and small business solutions companies, commercial dealership managers, and more.
CVBS Spring 2023 ran with a theme of “Futurish.” Appropriate for these times when emerging technology becomes current technology in the blink of an eye. Things don’t seem to stay in the future as long as they used to! Take self-driving Tesla cars as an example. In fact, Kathryn Schifferle, Founder/CVO of Work Truck Solutions, kicked off The Future of Automotive Commercial CVBS session with Steve Greenfield, Founder & CEO of Automotive Ventures, by sharing her first experience driving a Tesla.
“I had to drive down to Napa from Chico, and I decided that I was going to rent a car rather than take my car. When I showed up in the morning and was going to get my cheap car, there was a Tesla out front. So, I rented it,” explained Kathryn. “Strangely enough, this was my first experience, not being in one, but driving one. Oh my gosh, I have to tell you it changed my world. To me, it was like being inside of software and having an app help you.”
Did Kathryn enable the self-driving mode? In a word… no. As with any new technology, just because it’s available doesn’t mean everyone is ready for it.
Another example of the future of mobility colliding with the present is drones delivering cargo. Even if it is only small packages, drone delivery is now part of the commercial vehicle arena because they are a combination of air mobility and autonomy for moving cargo.
“Amazon is spending a tremendous amount of money in [the drone delivery] space as you can imagine. Walmart is as well,” said Steve. “And there’s a company called Zipline, that’s working primarily right now in Africa, moving medical supplies to remote areas with drones and they just raised something like a four-billion-dollar valuation. We got used to next-day delivery, now you can pay for same-day delivery. I think in the near future, you’re going to have the option of having products delivered to your house within minutes by drone.”
And we can’t talk about “futurish” without bringing up artificial intelligence (AI). You can’t look anywhere without seeing an article opining about how ChatGPT, or some other generative AI, is going to take over the world. Now, we have to take it all with a grain of salt, but AI is going to automate a lot of mundane, repetitive tasks. So, if you’re an accountant, if you’re on the phone all day with potential customers, if you’re writing, if you’re a creative-type , even for graphic arts, amazing things are already happening. This is difficult for a lot of professionals to accept.
Three years ago, many industry experts figured useful AI was still ten years out, but the release of ChatGPT late in November of 2022 popped many a bubble in that regard. Again, some of the same experts, whose industries stood directly in the crosshairs of disruption, reckoned the upstart’s results to be woefully subpar and that professional-level results were still years away from reality. Open AI’s new version, ChatGPT-4, was released only four months later. And its output is a drastic, jaw-dropping, cold-water-in-the-face, upgrade.
“On one side, you could say AI is really going to unlock tremendous opportunities for productivity and that it’s going to alleviate a lot of repetitive drudgery and manual tasks,” Steve opined. “On the other side, you could argue it’ll eliminate a broad swath of white-collar laborers. Either way you look at it, the next generation is going to grow up always surrounded by AI. It’s a Brave New World we’re entering into. It’ll be fraught with a lot of challenges. I would encourage everyone to be experimenting with this. Stay abreast of it because it’s going to change the day-to-day lives of all of us.”
Driving home a point, Kathryn remarked, “I remember one of the books that I was asked to read in college was called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. And, it was shocking at the time.”
Well, in many ways, the future is already here. But as leaders in the commercial vehicle sales industry, we must go about our daily work with eyes wide open to future technologies breaking through into our now. Fear and loathing is not an option if we want to thrive. In fact, I would challenge every dealership to look at emerging technologies as, yes maybe disruptors, but more aptly as possible new ways to serve your customers better.