Just read this L.A. Times article and am curious to see what becomes of the Toyota-SalesForce initiative. This will have no immediate or foreseeable impact on service providers to dealerships, but it is nonetheless a significant effort. The basics of the deal are:
- Toyota will roll out SalesForce’s Chatter product to franchises located in Japan
- The roll out will not begin until 2012
- There is no clear timetable for expanding the program to the United States
- The goal is to create a private social network for “cars, dealers and the automaker (Toyota)”
It does not seem that any enterprise communication tool has captured significant market share, although the amount of VC investment in that space indicates confidence in this segment’s potential. Additionally, the unique OEM-dealership structure might be a perfect use for Chatter given the geographic constraints on communication between employees in the Toyota family.
However, as with any new software product, but particularly in this industry, there will be major hurdles to overcome:
1) significant change resistance at both the OEM and the dealer level
2) is this solving a big enough problem for the organization, or will the current system of e-mail / phone be “good enough”?
I am also curious about this portion of the article:
The social network will not be a public one, but rather built on Salesforce’s Chatter service, which provides private social networks for offices and corporations.
But Toyota Friend users will be able to integrate their activity on the network with Facebook and Twitter if they want to, the automaker said.
The messaging here is confusing because there is an emphasis on private networks but also integration with open social media (e.g. Twitter). That all said, it is encouraging to see forward-thinking players in the automotive industry attempt to improve internal and external communication using new technology.