Email to Toyota NZ re CarPlay

A few months back I had an email exchange with Toyota, uploading here for prosperity so I can look back a few years later and see how it all plays out.


hi Toyota,

This message is intended for Neeraj Lala. Please do pass on feedback accordingly.

I read on Stuff today that you have no plans to bring out Apple Carplay or Android Auto support to the NZ market due to a perceived lack of interest. I would like to at least confirm that one current regular Toyota owner (myself) will certainly be considering Apple Carplay as a key factor in my 2019/2020 upgrade cycle.

Given I’m giving feedback, here’s the full set of considerations I’ll be making with my next purchase:

1. Inclusion of Apple Carplay and Android Auto, or at least available as a reasonable upgrade to any model Toyota. Your competition is bringing out a number of vehicles offering these features already – eg Kia is including Android Auto and Apple Carplay in the 2019 Rio and 2019 Sportage in NZ.

2. Ability to utilise my Android or Apple phone as the key. Currently a keyfob is required for proximity unlock and I’m sick of these chunky plastic things in my pocket and don’t see myself adopting a handbag anytime soon. I want to be able to walk up to my car, unlock with phone, get in and drive. This is something other manufacturers are working on currently and it plays a surprisingly large factor in my personal purchasing decision. I really hate keys. I don’t need a key to unlock my house any more (thanks to smart locks), so why do I need it for my car? Even my electric bike has bluetooth unlock!

3. Bring out a proper EV or plug-in hybrid RAV4 offering. My situation is probably not that uncommon – I’m after a reasonably priced SUV that will spend most of it’s time doing CBD driving (hence plug-in hybrid is attractive to reduce pollution and reduce running costs), but want the ability to go head to the mountain during snow season or tow a trailer and be able to take advantage of the benefits of owning an AWD SUV.

4. Having a user interface on the dash that isn’t hideously ugly. The display on cars like the Prius look like early 2000s Symbian-era cell phones. A shiny new car should look and feel as slick and as modern as the latest Android or Apple phone, not like some technology reject that got discarded by history.

My theory about the perceived lack of interest that Toyota NZ has experienced comes from the bias of the type of consumer purchasing new Toyota vehicles:

1. It tends to be younger buyers who fully utilise these technology features – they’re technology natives, they have busy jobs and these features are super useful to them, such as having messages read out to them. Older buyers are less likely to properly utilise their smart phone for all it’s capabilities and may not seek any of this functionality.

2. These same younger buyers tend not to have the large funds available for a new purchase and instead, will trend towards purchasing trade ins that are a few years older and offer much better value-for-money when laden with other commitments such as mortgages, house saving, etc. As 2nd hand buyers, their needs are not being captured at the purchase time of new vehicles as they’re not going to be calling into your call center asking about what new features are coming out, like CarPlay.

3. Additionally, these younger buyers are far less likely to pick up a phone to find something out. They’ll use online resources and reviews to figure out what the offerings are and make their decisions without ever talking to a Toyota representative. Why talk to a human when all the data is online?

4. EV or at least plug-in EV is super important. This generation does not want to be polluting the place more than we need to and it does play a big part in our purchasing choices. Given how quickly we are seeing the charging network grow and huge popularity of the Nissan Leaf, I think the desire for full EVs rather than this hybrid stop-gap is happening much faster than Toyota is ready for. At the very least, there should not be a single non-hybrid vehicle in Toyota’s fleet for 2019.

5. If Toyota continues to produce technologically lack-luster vehicles, there could be some interesting side effects. Two potentials I foresee are:

5a) Buyers upgrading to new models in a few years suddenly find a much lower lack of interest in their older models they are attempting to trade in, as the younger cost-conscious, but technologically needy purchaser takes the lack of functionality into consideration. This could impact the trade-in value of Toyota’s offerings, making them effectively more expensive to buy new than the competition.

5b) If someone who has always purchased Toyota changes their preferred manufacturer to take advantage of new technology now, are they likely to change back in future? People tend to buy what they know and trust, this is a prime time for another brand to take advantage of Toyota’s market weakness to win some new loyal customers for the next few decades. As mentioned before, Kia has some offerings that look a lot nicer than the current Toyota offerings for me as someone wanting to upgrade in the next 1-2 years.

Anyway if you read this far – thank you. I don’t expect you to necessarily agree with everything here, but I do challenge you to conduct some research with younger potential buyers and see if their needs really are what you think they are.

If you’re not sure where to find such people given nobody in my generation would ever waste their time with a phone or online survey, I’m happy to extend an invite to come along to the Wellington Home Automation meetup some time. I run this community group (approximately 40-50 people attend each month) who care passionately about technology being integrated into the real world. Whilst the focus of the group is smart homes, there’s a lot of people with strong thoughts about how mobile technology (ie phones) should integrated with homes and cars as a holistic system. A lot of these people work in IT (like myself) but we are seeing growing interest in the mainstream market and it’s a useful group to act as bit of a litmus test in regards to new technologies.

regards,
Jethro


Dear Jethro

Thank you for contacting us on Monday 24th September to pass on your feedback about our vehicle designs and technology, more so around Apple CarPlay.

You are obviously a very passionate person about your vehicles, and the importance technology has on our future development.  We have passed your feedback on to our Product Team, and will respond to you in more detail as soon as possible.

We hope you have a wonderful day Jethro, and please feel welcome to contact us if you have any enquiries in the interim.

Kind regards
Aaron

Customer Services Representative,
Customer Dialogue Centre | Toyota New Zealand Limited

 

Dear Jethro

 Thank you for contacting us and allowing us to clarify our position.

 Toyota New Zealand has been working on introducing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for customers, and we attempted to communicate that through the interview with Stuff.

 We are currently focusing our priorities on safety features, that will help us move towards autonomous vehicles, and expanding our range of hybrid vehicles. We have a well-developed plan for infotainment in our vehicles, however, we believe it’s more critical to expand advanced safety features as customer safety is our number one priority.

 Expanding our range of electrified vehicles has also been a customer demand driven priority as we attempt to lower our overall carbon footprint. So we have not ruled out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as suggested, but instead we are working through areas of demand in terms of priority.

 Thank you very much Jethro for taking the time to email us with your feedback.  We hope to be of service to you in the future, but know that you will make the vehicle purchasing decision that is right for you.  If you have any further enquiries, please feel most welcome to contact us.

Kind regards
Aaron

Customer Services Representative,
Customer Dialogue Centre | Toyota New Zealand Limited

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