Be The Expert Part 8— GPS Navigation

GPS Navigation—Just What Is the Best Way to Drive from Point A to Point B?

The Automotive PND (Portable Navigation Device) is most certainly not dead—just largely ignored by consumers over the last few years. This has led to many proclamations of its demise.  How did this happen?

Ever since sales reached a peak in 2008 with nearly 45 million devices sold globally, sales have been dropping, with forecasts becoming more grim. According to the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) 2016 January Sales and Forecast Book for the US, 2011 saw 12,315 thousand units sold for $1,343 million in sales while 2016 projected numbers are 3,785 thousand units with $431 million in sales.

While many new cars include a navigation system, the primary villain behind the pronouncement of doom is the smartphone. It’s also taken a huge bite out of compact cameras, music players, camcorders and portable game players. The smartphone is a multi-tool, which is undeniably handy. But like all multi-tools, it must make compromises for everything to fit. And when it comes to navigation, compromises abound.

It’s up to you to exploit those weaknesses and turn them into PND sales—because there are STILL potential customers out there. According to that same CTA study, 9% of US households plan to purchase one in 2016—that’s 11 million households! 56% of them will be repeat buyers, while 44% will be first timers.

Common Smartphone Arguments:

  • Already have the phone so it’s free
  • Very portable, usable everywhere
  • Responsive HD touchscreen
  • Many free GPS app choices. Some more robust apps are available for a small fee and may include offline-use maps
  • Free integrated traffic alerts and frequent map updates
  • Multitasks. Handy access to web browser for related Internet searches and active phone number links that can be called by simply tapping
  • Sometimes locates position more quickly since a map app uses both satellite and cellular signals

PND Strengths and Counterarguments:

  • No data overages or monthly fees. One-time only expenditure even includes mount. Smartphones aren’t truly free, as they have to be purchased, have recurring monthly fees and require a separate vehicle mount. Constant map app usage runs up data charges
  • Rugged, dedicated device. It can be easily dismounted and stowed in car. Not likely to get misplaced, lost or damaged. Sharable.
  • Big, sunlight-readable screen and loud volume. Most screens much larger and brighter than smartphones. Fonts and graphics optimized for simplicity and viewing at a distance. Voice directions loud enough to be heard over road noise and traffic sounds.
  • Customized, detailed programming with simplified interface for complete user control.
  • Uses specialty navigational aids like 3D graphics, spoken turn-by-turn directions using street names or landmarks and multidestination routing.
  • Maps always available, as they are preloaded. Free map apps are basic. Premium apps cost extra and offline map access requires a large chunk of smartphone memory.
  • Available at many price points. Many offer free map and traffic alert updates (number of updates a year varies). Updates installed manually by user at his/her convenience.
  • Navigation mode always full screen. Avoids smartphone multitasking pitfalls like minimizing, closing or pausing navigation app when using phone, doing searches, etc.
  • Uses satellite signals. Works where there is no cellular service. Since map apps require both GPS and cellular signals, reliability can be affected in rural and remote areas

Upping the Stakes

PND manufacturers haven’t thrown in the towel. Many PNDs now include Bluetooth, a dash cam and even a rearview camera. Garmin, among others, is introducing driver awareness and safety alert features like lane departure and forward collision warnings, speed limits, dangerous curves and more. And solutions to driver frustrations, such as navigating complex areas like airports or malls or where to find the closest parking, are being addressed.

Then there are devices like the Magellan SmartGPS. Adopting the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy, it syncs to smartphones or tablets, plus uses smartphone-like apps to automatically receive information of lowest gas prices, reviews and deals from Yelp, traffic updates and more.

And now there’s the new OverDryve from Rand McNally. OverDryve is billed as a connected car GPS tablet and brings together a number of wide-ranging features. These include smart device syncing and audio streaming with playback through the vehicle’s stereo speakers, voice navigation, dash cam, trip planning, forward collision warnings and more. It will even read aloud incoming texts by integrating with the smart device’s built-in voice assistant. And it comes with a magnetic smart mount to keep the device in place and powered. OverDryve has received rave reviews from influential media like Car and Driver, Kelley Blue Book, Forbes, Motor Trend and the Chicago Tribune.

The Takeaway

People are still buying PNDs. Manufacturers are continually introducing new features. And the more noise made about the advantages of automotive PNDs, the more public opinion can be swayed.

Stand-alone GPS for cars still makes sense. Arm your sales force with the pros and cons, run ads proclaiming PND superiority and post in your store the Smartphone vs. PND chart provided below. There are plenty of strong and compelling reasons why to buy a PND—plus 11 million households that want to buy one.


Looking for a printable version of the above chart? Get It HERE!

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