Having it all when it comes to luxury car ownership increasingly includes comprehensive concierge services--little touches like car pickup and delivery, guaranteed loaner cars, even free detailing. Ward’s Auto data shows that factory concierge service share is up from 14 percent in cars, and 20 percent in light trucks in the 2010 model year to 18 percent in cars, and 27 percent in light trucks for the 2011 model year.
But just as each luxury automaker seeks to differentiate its product offerings from competitors, a look at the types of concierge services offered by each shows there are some subtle differences.
The Acura Concierge Service program grew out of an older Acura initiative called Acura Total Luxury Care. Although listed on the Acura Certified Pre-Owned vehicles page, the Acura Concierge Service is available to new retail Acura customers as well. The benefits provided in Acura Concierge Service are more client service-oriented and include:
In addition, in January 2012, Acura began working with its dealer body to launch the Acura Concierge Experience initiative. This service is unique in that the focus is not on “complimentary services” provided, but on the caliber of service provided. What this means is delivering a higher level of personal engagement with each customer customized to meet their individual needs – as well as to meet or exceed a host of Acura Concierge Experience expectations. Dealers are required to participate in a training series that provides the foundation to the concierge experience.
There is no charge to Acura customers for either the Acura Concierge Service program or the Acura Concierge Experience.
Audi offers concierge services as amenities and guarantees of service to A8 and R8 buyers/customers. According to Mark Dahncke, Audi of America spokesman, Audi takes the approach that its customers “are more tech-savvy and they are a little bit more self-sufficient, in the sense that they don’t mind doing things on their own. They want to be able to do things on their own and they don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of having the online butler that you call.”
For the A8, in particular, and the R8, Audi worked with its dealers to:
“Our dealers have increased their level of infrastructure and resources so that there is an A8 technologist – someone who is very well versed in not only the car itself but also the customer, and is well-informed about what customers a particular dealership has and is able to address issues as they arise, whether that is something with a navigation system or something else on the car – so that there should be no open issues on the car that remain,” Dahncke said.
Audi offers owners of the A8 and R8 flagship performance and luxury models a higher level of service as part of the other benefits of Roadside Assistance. While every Audi owner has 24-hour roadside assistance during the original new car warranty, the level of service available to A8 and R8 owners includes:
The exclusive Audi Concierge assistance includes, but is not limited to, locating the nearest hotel and making reservations, locating available alternative transportation, making ticket reservations, and notifying loved ones or family members.
The exclusive amenities and service has been available to A8 and R8 customers since the introduction of the current Audi A8 in 2011. Check out our review of the 2012 Audi A8 here.
BMW offers Concierge services as part of the Convenience plan under the BMW Assist Safety & Convenience Services. Briefly, for an annual fee of $199, BMW owners have access to BMW search, directions, traffic, weather, critical calling, and concierge services.
BMW calls the Concierge service the “ultimate driving assistant.” By selecting the Concierge menu option on the radio or iDrive display, drivers have hands-free access to a live representative who can offer assistance with restaurant and hotel recommendations, movie times and ticket information, flight arrival and departure gate and times, fuel pricing and availability, and much more.
On most 2007 and later BMW models, the destination address and phone number can be sent directly to the customer’s vehicle. This information can then be transferred to the BMW navigation system (if the vehicle is so equipped) for route guidance or to a Bluetooth-linked cell phone to make the call.
What Cadillac is doing is a little different than some of its competitors. Cadillac’s approach is focused on providing consistent excellence in customer service, not concierge services like making reservations. Part of its “Defining Moments” customer service focus, the new element is the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) technology making its debut first on the 2013 Cadillac XTS luxury sedan. CUE will give Cadillac the opportunity to gain feedback and answer questions specifically on technology.
With the 2013 XTS, buyers will receive an iPad preloaded with an app that simulates the CUE experience. Certified technicians have been trained and are in place in Cadillac dealerships to answer questions on the new technology and show customers how it works at the dealership. If the customer is driving and has a technology question, they can call OnStar (pressing the OnStar button in the vehicle), and they’ll be connected to a customer service technology expert.
The next vehicle in the Cadillac lineup to receive CUE will be the 2013 ATS, although those customers may not receive an iPad.
Chrysler offers concierge service as part of a Mopar-branded dealer-installed option called Electronic Vehicle Tracking System (EVTS), which began in July 2010. EVTS had its roots in Mopar’s Electronic Vehicle Security (EVS) system dating back to the 1980s.
The base level of EVTS is a theft recovery system with real-time GPS stolen vehicle tracking and includes a $1,000 theft protection warranty.
There are two optional levels, Silver and Gold, both of which provide concierge service, although only the Gold level provides “full” concierge-type services. EVTS concierge service, according to Jim Sassarossi, director of Mopar global parts, sales and marketing, is that it is “anything where you can call out and get assistance, from security-based assistance to outside the security arena. “
Silver and Gold levels include:
Full concierge service – Only available in the Gold plan, the full concierge service handles customer requests for restaurant types, directions, reservations, travel reservations, tickets to ballgames or events, and other types of assistance.
Cost of the base EVTS system is $475 for the GPS stolen vehicle locator system plus one-half hour of dealer installation charge (roughly $35). There is no renewal fee on base unit or service. Optional upgrade costs are $155 for Silver and $255 for Gold, renewable annually.
Since it was introduced in 2010, 66 percent of customers upgrade to Silver or Gold from the base unit. Sassarossi said that EVTS “has exceeded our expectation and we’ve learned more uses for it.”
For example, quarterly polling of customers revealed that one of the ways they use EVTS is for directions in unfamiliar places, either turn-by-turn with the operator on the phone or the concierge sends a map to the customer’s compatible phone using one of the major map providers. EVTS is not integrated into the vehicle’s navigation system.
Another surprise is adults using EVTS to track their elderly parents. “This is a fast-growing segment of customer purchases,” said Sassarossi. “For about $13 per month, it’s a very cost-effective solution.”
Hyundai doesn’t offer concierge services in the traditional sense, describing them more as assistance services. With the top-tier package, however, customers do have access to live operators who can deliver all kinds of information and service to the car’s navigation system or directly to the driver.
The Sonata Hybrid was the first Hyundai vehicle to offer Blue Link in June of 2011. Blue Link is being progressively rolled out on the rest of the Hyundai lineup, including the 2012 Azera, Sonata and Veloster and the 2013 Genesis Coupe.
The assistance services are part of the top-of-the-line Guidance package of Blue Link (after Assurance and Essentials) and costs $279 per year. Guidance includes all the features of Assurance and Essentials package plus turn-by-turn navigation, points of interest (POI) by voice recognition, POI web search and download, daily route guidance with traffic conditions, traffic alerts, gas station locations and gas prices, Eco coach, restaurant ratings and weather.
See more detailed information on the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in this review.
The Infiniti Personal Assistant has been a standard feature on every Infiniti model since the 2012 model year. It is an anytime-anywhere-anything true concierge service that owners of every Infiniti vehicle – from the least-expensive G25 to the most-expensive FX50 - get free of charge during the four-year warranty period. It is not mileage-based. After the original warranty is up, owners can continue the service for an annual $199 fee.
It is a service that anywhere your cell phone is during the warranty period of the car, you can dial the Infiniti Personal Assistant and ask them to do any kind of services that you might need, such as restaurant reservations, airline flight check-in, even asking to have an item you’ve left at a hotel retrieved for you.
The all-new 2013 Infiniti JX (see our review here) features Infiniti’s first telematics system in which the Infiniti Personal Assistant is integrated into the car. So not only can you call the service using the cellphone, you can also access it directly through the car itself.
Just push the button. The car is a phone, just like any other telematics that might be in the vehicle. Ask for the Infiniti Personal Assistant. Say you are in Peoria, Illinois, and you want to know where the nearest Moroccan restaurant is. The Personal Assistant tells you there is a Moroccan restaurant within 5 miles of you and then they would send the directions directly into your car, without you having to do a thing.
The next vehicle to get the telematics system with integrated Infiniti Personal Assistant will be the 2013 Infiniti M coming out this fall.
Vehicles equipped with the available navigation system (standard on LX 570) feature Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, Lexus' in-car navigation and concierge service that debuted with 2010 model year vehicles. The all-new 2013 Lexus GS (see our review here) debuted the next-generation version of this system, which includes the Enform App Suite. This new suite adds connectivity safely and seamlessly and is also available on 2013 RX, LX and now ES.
Voice-enabled apps enable the user to perform local searches with Bing, make restaurant reservations through OpenTable, and get movie tickets via MovieTickets.com. Users also have the ability to check in on Facebook and search for business reviews on Yelp.
The system allows you to tap into Internet radio with Pandora and iHeartRadio, or use SiriusXM data services to obtain information on stocks, traffic, weather, sports and fuel prices. The system is updatable and upgradeable through over-the-air downloads, so new apps and content can be readily added.
A one-year free trial subscription for Lexus Enform with Safety Connect and SiriusXM data services is included. At the end of the free trial, owners can continue the service for $264.90 per year. Lexus Enform App Suite, also free for the first year, costs an additional $7 per month (with continuation of Enform with Safety Connect) thereafter.
The Lexus Enform advanced multimedia system connects to music, information and entertainment services through the user’s smartphone with the Enform Mobile App. The system works with iPhone, Android and Blackberry, all via Bluetooth. The following will sync with your mobile device:
Lexus Enform with Safety Connect includes:
The recently-announced Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge service will launch in early 2013 and will be complimentary and available to prospective customers of all Lincoln products. Although Lincoln is in the very early stages of developing Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge, the intent is to “win over today’s discerning luxury buyers” by creating and delivering “very personal aspects to the customer experience.”
The Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge will enable customers to shop around the clock. The service will provide a personalized experience, including live interaction with a highly-trained concierge who can engage with the customer through interactive video. The Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge is focused on providing a seamless transition between the customer’s online research and their initial dealership visit through:
Lincoln is also creating an iPad app for dealer sales personnel to use to walk customers through the next phase of the shopping process.
Plans are also in process to provide live chat and flexible appointment setting. As for what’s beyond the currently envisioned offerings, Lincoln spokesman Timothy Elliot said that integration of the concierge service with Lincoln navigation is something that is being considered, along with other ideas to create more personalized experiences for Lincoln customers throughout the shopping, buying and ownership periods.
As part of its process of reinventing how it interacts with customers, Lincoln is also collaborating with a world-renowned organization of hotel concierges, Les Clefs d’Or, to elevate the Lincoln customer service experience. Les Clefs d’Or is consulting on the new Lincoln Academy, a training program for Lincoln sales and service associates aimed at training them to deliver the same type of personalized service that customers receive at top luxury hotels.
Mercedes Benz, the first automotive manufacturer to introduce concierge service, introduced it in 1999 on the 2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The concierge service was part of the company’s first telematics platform called Mercedes-Benz Tele Aid.
Mercedes-Benz Tele Aid as anchored by automatic collision-type services, SOS, stolen vehicle recovery, roadside assistance and other services. The foundation was really safety and security, but the concierge service which was an add-on option for customers.
Ten years after it was introduced, in 2009 Mercedes-Benz launched its second-generation system called Mercedes-Benz mbrace. The system featured a base offering of mbrace and an optional enhancement of mbrace PLUS.
As of model year 2013, mbrace is now beginning its third generation, called mbrace2, which adds Mercedes-Benz Apps, Internet apps and open browsing features, out first on the 2013 SL Class. With mbrace2, one of differences is the inclusion of cloud-based Internet services into the system as well as opening up the door to a whole new variety of remote access-type features.
Rob Policano, Mercedes-Benz USA product manager, telematics services, said that after the launch of mbrace 2-1/2 years ago, the company saw a spike in the use of concierge that was surprising. “Throughout the first generation, we had a very steady subscriber base, with close to 20 percent of the owner base that had the services available to them chose to keep and use concierge,” said Policano.
That skyrocketed to more than 50 percent retention rate after the launch of mbrace, something Policano said they attribute, in part, to the fact that Mercedes-Benz included a three-month trial of concierge service as part of the cost of the car. “That proved to us the value of trial periods when it comes to connective services,” Policano said.
How customers are using concierge is also revealing. Research conducted over the past year shows:
Policano said that generational differences showed up in other research the company has done. One of the surprises was that Generation Y – those aged 18 to mid-30s – kept going back to the concierge services.
“Generation Y are really digital natives,” Policano explained. “They don’t remember a day without email. They’re very comfortable with technology and on-demand. We thought they were very hands-on, but they also loved the idea of the concierge. They’re just as interested in this as Boomers.”
Cost for the base mbrace is $280 per year (after a six-month free trial), while mbrace PLUS costs $20 per month (after a three-month free trial concurrent with mbrace). The new Mercedes-Benz Apps is $14 per month. There is a discounted monthly price of $34 for both mbrace PLUS and Mercedes-Benz Apps (in addition to the base mbrace service).
Be sure to check out our review of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL Class for more detailed product information.
(c) 2012, High Gear Media.