Meineke's dive into connected cars and the Internet of Things was drowned out in the noise of bigger TVs, Alexa everywhere and the emergence of home robots. The automotive service company is now selling the Revvy, an aftermarket device providing access to onboard vehicle maintenance and performance data, plus providing an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot as a value-added feature.
For all the hype about self-driving cars and vehicle telematics today, the automotive industry has been relatively slow to the party. There are tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of cars around the world that don't have an OnStar-esque link reporting back vehicle status data to a cloud.
Revvy uses the Vinli hardware and services platform. A Vinli hardware device plugs into the car's OBD-II data port, the auto industry's version of USB, to access onboard vehicle diagnostics. Most U.S. cars since 1996 have an OBD-II port. The device provides GPS, Bluetooth, and LTE-based Wi-Fi hotspot capability along with access to the car's computer and its data.
Upon starting the vehicle, Meineke Revvy goes through the onboard diagnostics, providing detailed feedback via smartphone app if there's something wrong , instead of the generic “check engine light” on the dashboard. By monitoring mileage and car alerts, Meineke provides service reminders based on mileage. It can also provide feedback on driving habits for improving safety.
An appointment scheduler and Meineke center locator built into the Revvy app provides an easy way for a customer to get service, and there's also a safety services feature to request towing for a bad breakdown. T-Mobile provides LTE connectivity for the in-car Wi-Fi hotspot with the addition of the appropriate service contract.
The win for Meineke is establishing a deeper customer relationship by providing more information to the consumer along with convenience in the form of maintenance alerts, an appointment scheduler, and service location locator. Customers are also able to track their Meineke loyalty points and review promotional offers through the smartphone app.
Another value add is third-party developer apps. Vinli has a library of 40 phone apps for its OBD-II device, including an Amazon Alexa “skill” enabling a customer to directly query Alexa about previous trips, vehicle health, location, and car mileage.
However, customer loyalty won't be the only benefit to Meineke. The service firm will be able to collect a wide range of information – yes, Ye Olde Big Data – on pre-OnStar-esque vehicles across manufacturers. Using analytics and machine learning (AI, if you prefer), Meineke should be able to gain insight into which makes and models of cars will need specific replacement parts and potentially “see” recall notice issues before manufacturers do. Having these insights will enable Meineke service centers to have the right parts on hand more often and offer preventive maintenance specials tailored to the specific make and model of the car.
Meineke's Revvy knowledgebase could also be a revenue center. New and secondary-market (i.e. used) dealers could tap into Revvy to specifically target individual buyers and families with brands and models of vehicles similar to their current ones. Imagine getting an offer for a “gently used” newer model replacement for your existing vehicle, with more <fill-in-the-blank>, with feature lists based in part upon collected Revvy data on driving habits. Dealers would be happy to pay for qualified and successfully convertible leads.
But Meineke isn't the only player in the Big Data game. I recently received a “free” three year offer from GM for basic OnStar services, plus another three to five months thrown in on a full OnStar package. The price for my opt-in, while unstated, is access to the operating data for my existing 2013 Chevy that will no doubt get fed into a larger GM database.
GM previously provided OnStar services for free for five years on 2015 models and beyond. The company might have come to the same conclusion I did about three years ago; having the data from older model vehicles is just as valuable as existing ones. I suspect one day GM and others will provide a “crash discount” promotion for a new model vehicle based upon airbag deployment data!
Edited by Alicia Young