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Will ChatGPT Revolutionize the Auto Retail Industry?



Abram Olmstead, Senior Director

Abram Olmstead

Senior Director, Digital Media
AI image of car with robots and moon in background
Image generated by AI (Fotor)

When I first started hearing about ChatGPT by Open AI, I had mixed feelings. The technology nerd in me was amazed and excited. But the professional part of me was nervous. After all, I make my living in digital communications, a large—and enjoyable—part of which involves writing. 

And I’m not the only one—almost every job in an auto dealership involves a fair amount of writing, including human resources, marketing and advertising, online and internet sales, social and digital media, community outreach, service advisors and just about every management position.

Automakers for their part are already looking for ways to use ChatGPT to sell cars on the Metaverse. Fiat and Kia Germany have already staked their claims in the Metaverse, opening immersive, interactive digital showrooms where ChatGPT can answer basic questions. Or, in the case of more complex questions, direct them to a human who definitely can.  

So, if writing jobs could be outsourced to an artificial intelligence chatbot, what does that mean for people who write for a living?

Rather than wait and worry, I decided to test it out myself. I would go keyboard-to-keyboard with this electronic usurper, in a contest pitting human against algorithm and see for myself what my future competition might deliver.

I logged onto ChatGPT and started with a simple question: 

  • “How will ChatGPT impact auto retail in the future?” 

Overall, the ChatGPT response was pretty bland and basic, a bit simplistic and underwhelming. It definitely read like a high-school level answer to an essay question.

It also wasn’t terribly original. I got a very similar response when I typed in other prompts, including “How will ChatGPT impact retail in the future,” and “How will ChatGPT impact e-commerce in the future?”  
Here’s specifically what ChatGPT said: 

  • “ChatGPT, as a language model, has the potential to impact auto retail in several ways in the future.” 

Hardly attention grabbing or brimming with personality, but let’s continue. 

  • “One potential application of ChatGPT in auto retail is through the use of chatbots, which are computer programs that can simulate human conversation. Chatbots can be integrated into website or mobile apps, allowing customers to interact with the dealership or automaker in a conversational way.” 

Again, simplistic. Most people already know what a chatbot is. They likely have already interacted with one and don’t really need it defined, especially while they’re in the active process of literally using a chatbot.

Plus, “simulate human conversation?” That doesn’t sound very human-like at all.

But, style points aside, the ChatGPT response did make a couple of good points on ways chatbots can be useful. 

  • “Chatbots powered by ChatGPT could provide customers with personalized assistance and support, answering questions about vehicles, financing options, and more. They could also help dealerships automate certain tasks, such as scheduling appointments or following up with leads. This could improve efficiency and reduce wait times for customers, ultimately leading to a better overall experience.

  • “In addition to chatbots, ChatGPT could also be used to analyze customer data and feedback, helping dealerships and automakers better understand their customers’ needs and preferences. This could enable them to tailor their marketing and sales strategies more effectively, and to create more personalized experiences for customers.” 

For auto dealers, ChatGPT and AI can certainly create search-friendly website copy and product descriptions, create content for email marketing campaigns and social media posts, make recommendations based on browsing history as well as research and compare products, and provide simple virtual customer support.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that ChatGPT and any similar AI is only as good as the data it sources from. In fact there are already several stories out there about responses replete with inaccuracies and even a total AI meltdown

At the end of the day, people are still the driving factor behind the success or even usability of any technology. After all, ChatGPT doesn’t come up with its own questions or ideas. It’s people that do.

Technology on its own is not quite ready to pick up on human nuances, and in many cases, can even frustrate potential customers. Just think of all the times you’ve tried to bypass an automated phone system to speak to a live customer representative.

“Personalized experiences” requires actual people at the dealership, delivering for their customers every day. People who know their customers and their communities, people who can generate ideas and solutions that are not just rote responses.

The ChatGPT response finished with: 

  • “Overall, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize auto retail by providing a more engaging, personalized, and efficient customer experience. As the technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how automakers and dealerships leverage it to stay ahead of the curve and meet the evolving needs of their customers.” 

“Revolutionize auto retail”? I tend to think yes; however, that revolution will be dependent on the organization and accuracy of data that dealerships integrate into their use of such tools. And from a consumer perspective, the usefulness of AI is still dependent on good data, analysis and thoughtful queries, all of which remain dependent on real humans (for now).

My instinct is that ChatGPT does not have enough information to comprehensively predict its full impact on the future of most anything. But this will continually improve as real people (with real imaginations) continue adding context, analysis, and data to better educate the growing machine.

Despite the human limitations, ChatGPT (and other AI generators of creative or editorial content) are truly incredible resources. I now use them as a second dashboard for research and problem solving throughout every workday.

In the coming weeks, we at NADA will be experimenting with ChatGPT to deliver editorial content via NADA Headlines. I’ll publish the links to each story in a bulleted list below, so save this link and check back each day for a new story written with artificial intelligence.

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