Tag Archives: Ford Motor Company

Would You Buy A Bluetooth Car From These People?

Spare a thought for the car salesperson. Nowadays they’ve got to know as much about technology as they do about cars. A recent course held by Ford in the UK called True Blue Live to train salespeople in technology has produced mixed reports. A South African motoring website called motoring.co.za reports that “by the end of the session nearly half felt “very confident” and most of the rest were “reasonably confident”. Only a few were still unsure but, importantly, conscious of the need to brush up.”

But elsewhere The Coventry Evening Telegraph (sorry, can’t find original link) reports from the same training session that “feedback after the event indicated that around 35 per cent of the sales staff who attended had little confidence in their own ability to demonstrate high-tech in-car equipment such as BlueTooth devices and voice control systems.” What’s not clear from the story is whether this was their attitude before or after the event. But you can’t help wondering whether, if the salespeople have trouble explaining Bluetooth and other features of these cars, end users actually ever understand or use any of them?

Love Hertz, Cos I Don’t

Booking online is, sadly, still sometimes as mindless and time-wasting as dealing with an automated phone system. I’ve just tried to book a rental car online for the UK. OK, so Christmas is a busy time, but some of these sites take so long to navigate it would be quicker to walk. Actually, Budget and Avis weren’t all that painful. They told you straight out what was available and what wasn’t (although call me old fashioned, but I still feel that online should offer deals for more expensive cars if less expensive ones aren’t available).

The one I have a problem with is Hertz. They don’t tell you what’s available, they only tell you what’s not available. And even then, you have to ask for it first. It’s the online equivalent of a Monty Python sketch (or an Indonesian shop manned by undertrained staff) where you only find out by trial and error what is actually for sale. Click on a kind of car and then submit your request for a quote. Some time later, you’re told

Hertz

So then you try selecting another vehicle, and then another, and then another…. until eventually you get to the bottom of the list — seven or eight car categories later — without a single vehicle available for the timeslot you’re looking for, and you begin to wonder whether they actually have any cars at all. What do they keep there in their lot? Santa’s sleigh fleet? Herds of reindeer? I must confess I didn’t try the extra categories that were a little out of my league, from the “Landrover Discovery 2.5 or similar” to the “Ford Transit 17 Seater – Corporate rentals only or similar”. Next time I will bring the extended family along, just so I can rent a car.

But, Hertz, come on. This is 2005, nearly 2006. Surely you guys have figured out that websites like this don’t cut it anymore? Web site navigation has got to be intuitive, imaginative and should anticipate what the customer needs, not just a bolt-on interface for your lousy car database. A simple “This category of car is not availalble, can we recommend a category F car instead? The following models are available at this station” would be enough in this instance to have kept my interest as a customer. Now you’ve lost one more customer who’s off to catch a bus.

IntelliTXT, Forbes And The Rise Of The Misleading Link

Where is the line between editorial independence and the advertisers who make a media publication viable?

Forbes, DMNews reports (thanks Online Journalism.com), has started included ’embedded ads’ in its news stories via Vibrant Media, a specialist in contextual advertising. These ads are links matching related words — car, house, music, that sort of thing. With nearly 5 million visitors in June, Forbes is Vibrant Media’s biggest client for IntelliTXT. As DMNews says, “IntelliTxt links are double underlined in blue to set them off from non-paid hyperlinks, which are in blue but not underlined. When a user hovers over an IntelliTxt link, the listings display a pop-up box with a ‘sponsored link’ heading and site description.”

I’ve written before about how I believe this is the wrong way to go. (Here’s a post I did on Vibrant Media last December, where I concluded that the whole thing was misleading.) At least with Forbes’ ads, the pop-up box informs the user where they would go should they click on the link. I have to confess I wasn’t able to find a single ad on Forbes’ site yet.

But there’s still plenty of things wrong with this. First off, context is everything. While the genre calls itself contextual, it is actually merely grabbing related words and turning them into links: The perils of this are legion. For example, ‘car’ may make a good for Ford ad in a piece on what kind of SUV to buy, but isn’t going to look so hot in a story about a major accident.

The bigger problem here is, as DMNews points out, online journalism is still trying to establish itself. As a journalist, to find one’s words mined for possible commercial links would smack of cheapness, and might lead to pressure from marketing departments to include more marketable words in their story. Or to edit them to make it so? Or to include references to specific companies so the link can be IntelliTXTed? How will journalists react to see their copy fiddled with in this way?

Then there’s the reader. How useful — read relevant — are these ads going to be? Watching IntelliTXT in action elsewhere I would say not very much. By contrast I’ve found Google’s AdSense listings, which appear to the right of search results, to be relevant, certainly less intrusive, and I actually launch searches some times just to see whether there are related or rival products out there I’m missing. Now that’s useful advertising.

News: Great News For Bad Parkers

 Japan is now seeling a car that parks itself. Reuters reports that Toyota’s new hybrid gasoline-electric Prius sedan uses electrically operated power steering and sensors that help guide the car when reversing into parking spaces. Rivals General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co will launch their first hybrids later this year.

News: “You Can Do What You Like With Your Ink Cartridge in North Carolina”

 The North Carolina Senate has deliberated and its verdict is clear: You can pretty much do what you like with your Ford, so why not your printer cartridge? The Associated Press reported that the state House agreed Tuesday to Senate changes to a bill that would give printer owners the right to refill any printer ink cartridge, voiding purchase agreements that ban the practice. In effect it means that if you want, you can get your printer cartridge refilled elsewhere — legally.
 
The bill was prompted by a lawsuit filed by printer company Lexmark International against Static Control Components of Sanford, which makes components for the laser printer cartridge industry, AP reports from Raleigh. Static Control makes computer chips that allow less expensive ink cartridges to be adapted to Lexmark printers. After Lexmark sued Static Control to try to stop it from manufacturing the chips, the Sanford company filed its own lawsuit, accusing Lexmark of monopolizing the toner cartridge market and falsely representing their products. The Static Control chips mean consumers don’t have to send their cartridges back to Lexmark for refills. Many Lexmark buyers agree to return the cartridges to Lexmark’s factory in Kentucky in exchange for a rebate. The agreement is found on the box or in paperwork inside.
 
 
(No, that’s not an ink cartridge spill, it’s Static’s logo.)
 
Here’s Static’s view of the battle, along with a picture of the executives looking grim, undergunned, but determined. Here’s Lexmark’s, sadly without any grim-looking execs although they do have a picture, seemingly obligatory these days, of a corporate woman with glasses.