An Interview with Trevor Byrne –the Future on Automotive

We meet Trevor in the Toronto office of Red Urban. His words are gently spoken, but weighted in years of industry experience. Listed on Marketing’s 30 Under 30, Trevor’s resume includes work at Nissan, Volkswagen and Taxi (Canadian Tire) both on the creative agency side and internally with within the manufacturer. With such extensive experience in the industry his unique perspective on the industry is worth listening to.

Everyday Disruption

Currently working as Group Account Director for the Subaru brand, Trevor recently spoke at TRADER’s dealer conference, Carology, which put a spotlight on industry disrupters and how the industry is facing change as a whole. He explains that looking outside of your industry can give you fresh inspiration from similar areas of industry.

While there is a tendency to gaze towards seismic disruptions, like connectivity, Trevor focuses instead on micro-disruptions. Here, he mentions a sticking point in the industry—“People hate buying cars”. This is an agony, he claims, that comes second only to visiting the dentist. The consumer is wary. He knows the salesman is incentivised by the short-term sale, and not a long-term customer. Presidents and GMs of dealerships should embrace new methods to allay this. Simple but impactful changes could be changing how to greet prospects in a showroom, or adopting new software to retain customer information.

Selling on Safety

Trevor’s golden advice for dealers is to familiarize themselves with driver aids that are sweeping the market. The tumbling price for this technology offers a vibrant sales opportunity.

He points to EyeSight technology in Subaru. In a car that costs $35,000, the customer receives features once reserved for the highest trim levels of luxury, like an S-Class. A lifelong car enthusiast, he is visibly stirred when talking about this modern revolution, and believes it truly can save lives. Functions like lane assist or adaptive cruise control are not new concepts, he explains, but are radically enhanced by cameras. Such monitoring systems are everywhere, affordable, and should be a focal point in the sales process.

Voice Command is “Imperative”

Trevor agrees that voice command has disruptive potential. He himself relies on the technology daily to limit distraction, using it to send texts and read out emails. However, while dashboard systems like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are ubiquitous, he believes most manufacturers do a poor job at refining GPS or voice command systems.

When speaking of privacy issues that plague the adoption of voice command, he puts concerns into perspective: “Apple, Google and all Android devices listen the majority of the time anyway. They’ve gotten around privacy issues. Why not leave the liability on them?”

Market Watch: China

We move topically to China, whose growing electric car industry threatens to invade Western markets. Will Canadian dealers soon see more Chinese cars on their lots?

Perhaps. Trevor believes that Trump’s protectionist policies may persuade Chinese companies to enter Canada as a test market. Pockets of Canada, he says, would make an ideal beta testing ground for foreign companies to feel out brand acceptance. However, for sheer scale, the US remains the ultimate target for market size and sales volume.

If Chinese cars are ever to gain a foothold here, manufacturers will need to overcome Western skepticism associated with the “Made in China” tag. This has connotations with cheaper materials, lower build quality and ultimately, shorter lifespan. But Trevor says this is generational, and happened when Eastern brands like Honda and Kia breached the market decades ago. He predicts dealers may soon see Chinese offerings in the entry-level luxury segment—something similar to a Lexus or Infiniti. This would make a statement about great build quality, and create consumer confidence in Chinese cars.

The Bucket Seat

Within our short conversation, Trevor illuminated several frontiers of disruption. His is a talent for cutting through buzzwords and market hype, translating his knowledge into actionable advice. To hear more from him tune into his automotive podcast, The Bucket Seat.

Trevor Byrne is an auto and marketing expert. He also hosts an automotive podcast, The Bucket Seat, which releases its third season at the end of November.

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