The future, according to Aston Martin, is bespoke
Amid all the ideas about the future of automobiles, one question is grossly neglected: What about the customer? Aston Martin’s answer is simple: Flip the experience to deliver products on the customers’ terms. Speaking at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show’s AutoMobility LA technology conference, Laura Schwab, president of Aston Martin The Americas, discussed the future of the British carmaker. And it wasn’t centered around EVs, or self-driving cars, but on the notion of making things bespoke. Not just the handmade cars, but every interaction with the company.
Aston Martin customers, Schwab says, “will tell us what they want; they will tell us what’s important to them. Typically, it’s that their time is precious but also that will want to be part of something, and I don’t think that will change.”
In simple terms, Schwab is stating that we all like to feel special (and those who can afford Aston Martins really like to feel special). It’s a message so simple that it gets neglected in our fervor to buy the latest and greatest things. Everything in the automotive space, from a car’s debut to the buying experience, happens on the company’s terms. A manufacturer picks a day to show off a car that’s convenient to its plans, just like dealers stock the cars and wait for people to make time to shop.
Schwab advocates switching that relationship and using the data they have on customers to deliver an experience on the customer’s terms, for what’s convenient to them. For example, when the company launched the DB11, it asked customers how they wanted to see the car, instead of hosting a launch event. One customer requested to see the car in his home, with an In N Out Burger food truck and keg of beer.
Looking forward, Schwab asks, “When Aston Martin customers want to take a test drive, why should you not be able to request that car to come wherever you are, unlock with a code, and have an app talk you through the experience?” As opposed to the traditional test-drive method of getting in a car with, essentially, a stranger who tells you what he or she wants you to know about the car.
Aston Martin is a tiny company that sells expensive cars in miniscule volume compared to the industry behemoths. It’s easier for Schwab have a relationship with customers than her counterpart at General Motors or Toyota. But the idea of bringing the brand closer to the customer is universal.
Whether that means we’ll be riding in a futuristic pod where you sit in the back seat, a three-passenger quadcopter, or a personal submarine (all of which are actual recent Aston Martin design concepts), the companies that will succeed in the future will be able to adapt to our needs.
That might sound like the product is irrelevant. It’s not, at least not to Aston Martin. Schwab says, “We won’t consider automotive a bad word” as the company evolves. “Few things in the world can deliver such a thrill, and we never want to lose sight that to our customers.”