A study has revealed that 30% of US consumers do not trust anyone to manage the vast amount of data being collected by increasingly connected vehicles. That presents a significant challenge to manufacturers as they look for returns on the huge digital investments they have made.

The Deloitte 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study showed that consumers are willing to share their personal information if it means gaining access to vehicle health and maintenance updates, traffic congestion information, and updates to improve road safety. However, it also highlighted how trust issues – particularly in Europe – are potentially holding them back.

As vehicles have become more connected, their functionality has grown increasingly data-driven. Often that data is supplied by third-party providers and is transmitted across multiple networks and platforms, with each link in the chain carrying its own implications in terms of privacy, security, and legislative compliance.

“The industry’s current solution is to lock that functionality behind an impenetrable legal waiver that must be begrudgingly accepted before access is granted,” said Peter Galek, Product Engineering Director at VNC Automotive. “This approach, almost by design, makes it largely impossible to know what is being agreed to, and may have inadvertently helped to foster this lack of trust.”

App store purveyors such as Google and Apple have responded to similar challenges by attempting to be more transparent about how their customers’ data is used. This has included introducing new, more granular privacy controls that allow customers a greater say over what an app can and can’t do.

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“Perhaps automotive OEMs should take a leaf out of the tech industry’s book,” suggests Tom Blackie, CEO, VNC Automotive. “Many manufacturers offer a smartphone app that links to the car through a personalised account, and this presents the ideal opportunity to explain what data is collected, how it will be used, and to opt-in or out. A customer-facing portal could also offer a further chance to gather consent.

“Both would allow each customer to decide their own comfort level; some may prefer to withhold their location information, but still be perfectly comfortable sharing vehicle data such as fault codes or wear indicators. By being open and transparent about the data being collected and giving the customer the final say, it reassures them that their personal information is being treated with respect.”

For the customer, this opens the door to a range of digital services such as predictive maintenance, driven by data collected by sensors around the vehicle that can detect premature wear and suggest remedial action before it becomes a problem.

This approach also allows OEMs and dealers to remain in contact with their customers between scheduled visits, something the industry has been struggling with as service intervals have become longer.

Building trust within a relationship is key to generating repeat business, too, and once a customer has become invested in a digital ecosystem, they are less likely to want to leave.

“It’s often said it’s how you respond to a challenge that really cements a relationship. Shining a little extra light on these new digital features creates the opportunity to turn these trust issues around,” concludes Blackie.