Ford Motor is using Big Data to help its dealers sell more cars, more quickly, report Ian Sherr and Mike Ramsey in The Wall Street Journal (3/11/13). For about three years now, Ford has offered “a system to dealerships that reads the dealer’s inventory, checks national and local supplies of vehicles, interprets buying trends and makes recommendations about what vehicles the dealer should stock … The results have been significant. Ford vehicles are sitting on lots for fewer weeks and the prices consumers are paying are rising.”
Ford is also “combing through consumer forums on the internet and social-media services such as Twitter to spot trends that could help guide product development and problems that might lead to potential warranty issues. The team mines financial databases to assess the health of key suppliers, and analyzes internal human-resources databases in an effort to identify and head off labor issues, such as engineering resources being stretched too thin.” Data collected from cars could also help serve customer needs and guide future auto-buying decisions.
As Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski explains: “They can notice all the vehicle seat belts are occupied and they can say, ‘hey, maybe you want a family vehicle’.” They can also track a customer’s “typical driving patterns, schedules and movements on the road to recommend routes the drivers might feel more comfortable with.” Of course, there’s always the question of driver privacy, but Nash Parker of Alcatel-Lucent sees this fading over time: “As you get younger, people are more willing to give up privacy for convenience or level of security.”