Algorithms versus car dealers

New stickerMy car dealer gave up on the battle.

I got my car back from the dealer today and saw the sticker at right on my windshield. On my previous visits, they always put on a sticker telling me to come back in 3,500 miles.

I’ve always ignored it because my Acura has a Maintenance Minder system that tells me when to come in for service. Based on how far I drive and how I drive, an algorithm calculates the estimated oil life. (Typically 8,000 miles.)

I figured the Acura algorithm is probably right — their incentives are to make it right. If the car breaks in the first four years, they’re on the hook for fixing it. If infrequent oil changes causes reliability problems, they get penalized in Consumer Reports rankings. The dealer, on the other hand, makes more money by recommending more frequent oil changes.

The new sticker isn’t particularly informative. It tells me to come back when my car’s indicator reads less than 15%. My car tells me that more prominently. When it hits 15%, a big orange “Service Due Soon” replaces the odometer. When it hits 5%, it becomes “Service Due Now.”

What it doesn’t tell me (and what the sticker does) is where I should take it for service. It’s only a matter of time before they program in the phone number for my dealer, along with a click-to-call on my Bluetooth phone.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
This entry was posted in cars, consumer electronics. Bookmark the permalink.