“Must Have USB!”

The most often-asked question of pre-owned car salespeople by far is: “Where is the USB port?”

For used car shoppers, finding their next dream drive is undoubtedly a daunting experience. Walking onto a dealer’s lot or viewing countless cars online, they’re bombarded with facts, figures, trims, mileages, colours, different prices and myriad finance offers. To add to the overwhelming influx of information, a salesperson adds yet more pressure onto the potential buyer to sign an Offer To Purchase before leaving their showroom floor through a series of sales tactics and tricks.

That price may perfect, under budget even, and the condition of that dream car may be excellent. It may even sport a shiny German-engineered badge proudly glinting in the sunshine and perform like a new vehicle on a test drive that includes high-speed sprints. Your spouse might even be smiling in approval of your choice. Under the bonnet of this car may beat a fuel-efficient V6 engine; hand-stitched leather upholstery; fancy towbar attachments; panoramic glass sunroofs.

Interior of a 2002 Mercedes-Benz CL Class.

The entire sales pitch and negotiation more often than not comes to nought when the buyer asks: “Where is the USB port?” No manner of sales-speak and negotiation will win back that the majority of buyers’ interest in that car.

The motor manufacturing industry has long played a high-stakes game of catch-up with everyday technology to stay on trend in attempts to not lose momentum with the millennials and the tech-savvy. Customers have long expected the cars they drive to offer a plethora of features, but auto makers have struggled to offer drivers and passengers meaningful integration and services to enhance their transport and driving experiences to match even those of a lowly desktop computer.

Adding more pressure on car makers was the birth of touchscreen mobile phones, when these devices became ubiquitous. The groundswell of technology encroachment on our lifestyles in the middle 2000s saw auto makers wholly unprepared for technology integration into their mainstream products. Buyers demand apps that simplify complex processes in mere seconds; to snap photographs with as much depth as camera systems costing more than the price of the said cars; and buyers demanded more ways to enrich their lives with an endless stream of entertainment at the touch of their mobile’s screens.

Thanks to Bluetooth pairing to computers, hi-fi systems and more, buyers expected this technology to be transferred to their cars for simple integration. Car makers stuttered to produce systems, but have since solved that with wonderful systems. For many, carrying our own music (and entertainment) in our pockets is seen as more important than a handbag or wallet. Plugging said devices into cars was all the rage in the early 2000s – before manufacturers slowly began installing USB ports and AUX jacks into every orifice of a car’s glovebox and centre console. Remember the CD wallet? Those have long since been turfed out, as well as chewed up cassette tapes…

Interior of a 2008 BMW e90 3-Series.

Is no USB really a deal-breaker, though? Having lost out to car sales in my experience because of this, yes. Great cars were overlooked. Fantastic deals were dashed. Bluetooth Audio Streaming, which means we can plug our carefully curated media items straight into our car’s existing audio systems, also means being able to take phone calls while on the go without the unfashionable Bluetooth earpiece dangling from one’s ear that’s coated in earwax. Thanks to all manner of apps on our different devices, car companies and technology developers had to meet. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have largely been the saviour of the car buying public. These App integration systems have transformed cars’ dashboards into media streaming devices, full-colour maps, TV streaming and more all at the touch of a button – and even voice-controlled. These technologies mirror your phone to offer a user experience second to none for those who cannot leave their phones alone in their pockets or handbags for even an hour.

Image by takealot

However, this technology has benefited vehicles – and transport – in general. Vehicle interiors – and the leap in technology – has made for more interactive experiences. For millenials, for whom so much of the business decisions across the world revolve, have grown up with their iPhones and other touchscreen devices; the convenience factor, for them, is topmost in their decision-making when it comes to an array of product purchases.

No app, no car? That is pretty much the way the vehicle market is headed within the next decade or two with the emergence of Uber and Lyft, and other such ride-sharing programmes. Does this mean that your luxury vehicle that doesn’t even offer a single USB port is now redundant? Far from it, actually. And, buyers should be far less perturbed by the lack of USB and Bluetooth than they actually are. Those technologies can be retrofitted to any vehicle thanks to the plethora of options available via the aftermarket accessories manufacturers. Many audio systems offer superior quality, greater integration at far more affordable prices than most vehicles’ optional extra USB ports and Bluetooth inputs are priced.

Image by takealot

To buyers of pre-owned vehicles simply walking away from a very desirable pre-loved vehicle for the sole reason it has no USB ports or Bluetooth integration seems foolish. Yet, the market demands these technologies and app integrations.

Grab that deal. Negotiate with the selling dealer to either fit an aftermarket audio system or compromise on their selling price for you to fit a system of your own choice. That’s be my sound advice on this subject.

An aftermarket system – akin to the Pioneer unit above – features USB, Bluetooth, and AUX inputs as well as app integration.
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