Retailers say the market is finally ready for smartphone remote start and they are pushing the feature aggressively this season.
Smartphone-start is an add-on to a remote start sale, allowing users to start the car from a phone app no matter how far away (provided there’s cell service).
The feature now accompanies about 5 percent of remote start sales at many dealers, expected to climb to about 10 percent this year, they said. And while, that’s not a large spike, it’s better than the 1 or 2 percent attachment rate at which the feature stagnated for years.
Nearly every retailer we contacted said this is the year they are pushing smartphone remote start aggressively, pitching it to every customer that walks in the door.
As Mark D’Elia of SoundFX, RI said, “More and more, people are just looking to their phones to do everything. And the OEM industry does a good job of showing it on TV commercials… Once you tell people you don’t have to carry remotes with you and you never have to replace the battery, it helps close the sale. And there’s the benefit of unlimited range and the ability to lock and unlock the door remotely for the cost of a couple of coffees a month.”
Dealers say that average consumers, not just early adopters, are now asking if they can use their smartphone to control remote start. As John Gillis of Precision Sound, MA, said, “Yes, in the past we would talk about it, but not for every sale…Now, this year, every customer gets a breakdown on it. We have displays up and it’s up and running on our cars.”
Nate Kubicz of Car Tunes, MI said, “We’ve changed our language when talking to customers about remote start. We ask them how they want to control it [key fob, factory key or smartphone].”
Remote start from a phone generally adds a $150 premium to a remote start sale, plus an annual fee of about $60 per year.
Dealers are promoting the upsell this year through new displays, in-store signage, Facebook posts, and free one-year-of-service specials, they said.
“People are finally starting to come around and warm up to it. Last year, we tripled or quadrupled our business in smartphone remote start. This year, I expect a similar scale of growth,” added D’Elia. “We run a special on it. Free service for a year with DroneMobile. So that’s $60 free.”
CarFi, MO said 4G is also helping smartphone remote start as the response time from the phone is now about the same as from a remote key fob transmitter. CarFi’s Chris King believes the smartphone-control option will reach a 20 percent attachment rate this year.