Ford dealers get iPad app to use with showroom customers

Quick inventory check on tablet can avoid long search of dealers' lots

Ford dealers now have an iPad app they can use to quickly check available inventory and offer product information to help out customers in their showrooms.

Also included in the Showcase app is video content on car features that sales personnel can show to customers on an iPad as they shop at a dealership.

Michelle Moody, cross vehicle marketing manager for Ford, said the company started considering the app in early 2011 to improve the car-buying experience.

The app builds on the Ford.com website, which allows for configuring and comparing vehicles. Sales personnel can use the iPad app to determine what features a customer wants and then immediately check inventory to find a vehicle in stock that most closely matches those needs, Ford said in a statement.

Videos on the app can explain a variety of features such as Sync and active parking assistance, along with other features such as a lane-keeping system that Ford said might not be easy to showcase during a test drive.

Since the app can be used to check inventory for a specific car and price, it can speed up a purchase compared to a more time-consuming search for a vehicle on a dealer's lot. If the customer needs more time, the sales person can email the customer information on specific vehicles in stock.

Razorfish worked with Ford to design the app over several months in 2011, and a pilot group of 14 Ford dealers tested it starting last November. Ford offered the app to dealers starting on Aug. 1; nearly 200 dealers have signed up to use it.

Ford didn't reveal how much it cost to build the app. A spokeswoman said the program is voluntary to dealers who pay for the iPads they use and a subscription fee for the app. "Many of them are very excited about the program," she said.

Moody said that kiosks in the showroom have been available for customers to check vehicle features for some time, "but many customers were not as comfortable using these on their own."

iPad apps have been popular with car dealers. Mercedes Benz launched an iPad app in 2010 to help dealers sell cars and some cars incorporate iOS and Android devices and their apps in the operation of vehicles.

Ford created a video that shows how the Showcase app is used.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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