Staying up-to-date on vehicle features


Virtually all redesigned or refreshed vehicles come with an increasing number of tech-heavy features. Your customers are going to want to know more about them, especially if they haven’t bought a new vehicle in a while.

There is information online about them, but often those complicated explanations can be as difficult to figure out as some of the features themselves. Shoppers are looking to you to provide simple and effective clarification on them, and everyone who deals with customers needs to be as up-to-date as possible on what’s in your vehicles.

In addition to dealer-specific training materials provided by the automakers, you can look for online videos – which you can also show to customers in the store, especially for features that work during driving and can’t easily be demonstrated otherwise – or even find out more about them in each model’s owner’s manual.

How you present them to your customers depends on what the feature is and what it does.

Fuel-saving technologies are seldom visible, so look for videos that illustrate how they work. These can include cylinder deactivation, Atkinson-cycle engines, Eco mode buttons, and idle start-stop.

Vehicle electrification is one of the hottest topics right now, so be ready. Customers may want answers to such questions as the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid, and why the latter is pricier; a mild hybrid versus a full hybrid; fast-charging and home charging; what can affect an electric vehicle’s range; and the maintenance they require. Electric vehicles have to fit the owner’s lifestyle and not the other way around, so people need to know everything if it’s the first time they’re considering one.

Transmissions aren’t really considered a feature, but many buyers don’t know the difference between an automatic, a CVT, or a dual-clutch unit. They may also be unclear on why an automatic may have manual shift mode; why an SUV may offer tow mode; or why some transmissions have considerably more gears than others.

All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are often misunderstood, especially since there are different types and automakers may use the terms interchangeably. Customers may have the impression that some AWD sport-utilities are more off-road-capable than they really are, or they may not know that some 4x4 trucks and SUVs shouldn’t be driven on hard surfaces in four-wheel if they don’t have a full-time system.

Infotainment features are a huge one for shoppers, and it’s a long way from the days when they only had to figure out how to reset the clock twice a year. Everyone should be familiar with the various systems – if phone connectivity is wired or wireless, the infotainment menus, how to set a favourite radio station or enter a contact’s information, and how to activate the voice control function. It’s also important to know what each system can’t do, so you can guide customers to the vehicle or trim with the features they desire.

Driver-assist and safety features are another area where everyone needs to be absolutely up-to-date, because new and improved versions are coming along all the time. Customers need to know the difference between warning systems, such as blind-spot monitoring or lane-departure warning that activates chimes or lights as needed to get a driver’s attention; and assist systems, which warn and then provide steering or brake assistance to help bring the driver back from a potential problem.

Highway driving assist features may be misunderstood by consumers, because there are so many levels of these programs. These can range from a simpler system such as adaptive cruise control, which keeps its distance from traffic ahead; to combinations of features that add lane-centring to keep a vehicle in its lane; to sophisticated systems that can operate hands-free for considerable distances through combinations of lane markings and pre-mapped GPS information.

While it’s important to point out a vehicle’s features, especially if they give you an edge over a competitor’s models, it’s also essential that salespeople never oversell an item. Be honest about what the feature can do, whether it’s how much of a difference a fuel-saving feature will make at the pumps, or just how far off the beaten path an AWD system can go. This is especially important with safety features, as they’re meant to be assists, not a substitute for good driving – and despite what some people may think, nothing out there right now is an actual self-driving autonomous car. The more your salespeople know, the more they’re able to pass on, the more they’re able to explain, and the more satisfied your customers will be.