Hit Me With Music – The Value In-Vehicle

“I have a BMW. But only because BMW stands for Bob Marley and The Wailers, and not because I need an expensive car.”

-Bob Marley

Until a few months ago I was driving my grandfather’s 98 Buick LeSabre. It had rust and a few of his polka cassette tapes still in the arm rest. When he passed I inherited it. I sold the Scion I was driving and was free of a car payment. Anything to save money and make ends meet. My coworkers joked I had some secret crack habit. Sure, I wanted to drive a nicer car but I think I had come to accept my identity and the realities of life to not be tied up in the vehicle I drove. Honestly my frustration was having a cassette player that didn’t work and no easy way to listen to podcasts and digital music. I devised ways with adapters, jerry-rigged wires, and finally a portable speaker that I hooked up to my phone. Ghetto. The laughs and comments I think fueled the beatnik chip on my shoulder and didn’t really bother me.
Buick LeSabre
Then I got a 2013 Buick Verano largely inspired by my employment at Buick/GMC and the realization I needed to better understand the product I was selling. The feel of the seats and the leather steering wheel were the first signifiers my personal game had changed and it was zippier and sportier than the weary LeSabre. And like most egos on this planet with a new car I noticed I was proud of what I was driving and no longer avoided eye contact in the parking garage along the Detroit River. Within a few days I noticed something more drastic for my mental frame of mind. It was the Intellilink unit. Having all this music seamlessly integrated with my phone, the Pandora app, Sirius, and the ability to listen to my podcasts was monumental. I could listen to This Week in Google with Leo Laporte to stay on top of the tech world and could blast reggae/dub to get lifted or put on roots Detroit Techno to get focused and grounded. A part of my identity was restored. I was learning and finding new things. Cultured.

Buick Verano

Kids aren’t buying cars like they used to. Back in the day a car signified who you were. You were a “Buick Man” or only drove “Fords”. There’s been a lot of discourse how millenials aren’t driving cars or the status associated with them no longer holds. I don’t claim to fully be a part of this generation but my mentality when it comes to music is not far off. The experience of the music is just as important, if not more important, than the ride itself. When you are ingrained and hip to the music you can then participate in the social conversations.

The backbone of the in-vehicle experience is the technology and this is where the automotive companies are teeing up to do battle. Gregg Garrett in Connected World Magazine analyzes this question and poses the difficult questions companies are facing of Connected Company or Connected Product. On one level there is a struggle to not only adapt the masses to the technology, think teaching your grandmother to use Facebook, but to how do we develop it, think coming up with the latest Google Glass app. And more importantly the question needs to be asked, “Who is going to own that experience and potentially incrementally monetize it?”

Concepts of Value Are Changing

Dub MusicAt the core our definitions of value are evolving and companies are both adapting and struggling. Value is becoming more abstract and a concept. For me, value is being able to listen to my music loud from the podcast I downloaded two weeks ago versus what size cylinder is in my Verano. I’m not saying I’m the norm but there are many, think Sonic and Spark drivers, who feel this way. These experiences along with the signified connections with those who value similar things create communities and tribes and in turn create loyal customers.

These are tremendously exciting times as new apps and even new ways of thought like the self driving car come into our society. How will the industry and how will the rockabilly shop class greasers who are now the nerdy mustached hipsters with startup companies take us to places only a 1am Detroit Techno Gratiot Avenue Drive can even dare?

Everything written here are the views of Tim Aten and Tim Aten only. They have no relation, nor are they the views of any of my employers past or present.

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