Dealers ask: Who's going to buy this stuff?

Next-generation keyless entry systems on future vehicles will add convenience and cost. Not fumbling for car keys in the dark sounds great. Paying $1,000 to avoid that might spook some consumers, according to dealers. It depends though. Passive keyless entry may be a harder sell for more established customers. But Generation X and Y might shell out that kind of money for such high-tech automotive

Next-generation keyless entry systems on future vehicles will add convenience — and cost. Not fumbling for car keys in the dark sounds great. Paying $1,000 to avoid that might spook some consumers, according to dealers.

It depends though.

Passive keyless entry may be a harder sell for more established customers. But Generation X and Y might shell out that kind of money for such high-tech automotive features, says Danny Niblett, general manager of Lindsay Cadillac in Alexandria, VA.

He explains, “Our traditional DeVille buyers and even STS buyers are not crazy about adding bells and whistles. There's already a perfectly acceptable method of entry into the car.”

But the new system might make sense on a CTS, Niblett says, referring to Cadillac's new sport sedan targeted at younger buyers.

Currently, Cadillac is popular with customers over age 50, but the General Motors division is working to entice buyers in the 30-50 age group with the Escalade SUV, CTS and a new XLR roadster to be out in 2003.

Dealers familiar with the new key systems — and there are many dealers unfamiliar with them — are skeptical about the technology. They contemplate hearing horror stories and dealing with unhappy customers if the systems fail.

“If you get locked out of your car or aren't able to drive it because of the system, you can imagine how upset people would be,” says Niblett.

Many dealers have not heard anything about these new systems. Although passive keyless entry has a European presence, many Americans don't even know it exists. That includes some dealers.

The upcoming technology would be great feature on high-end cars, but not on every car, says Zach Atchley, vice president of Atchley Ford in Omaha.

He says, “All consumers are interested in new features, but they want features that make sense and work. Installing this on cars for the pure sake of technology — I don't really see what that would do to our vehicles except raise the cost and make us less competitive with our Asian counterparts and others.”

The KEYLESS-GO option now available on Mercedes' S-Class seems popular with about 30% of S-Class buyers — after it has been properly explained and demonstrated, according to Thomas Carnevale, a sales representative at Fletcher Jones Motorcars in Newport Beach, CA.

“If it is explained correctly, then our older clients will accept the option,” says Carnevale. “But it's hard to explain. It's better to show.”

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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