Audi of America has been on an impressive upward trajectory for some time now. Through July 2014, it had 43 consecutive months of record sales.
This means, of course, that there are more Audis on the road. And while the company is building them with high levels of quality, things can and do go wrong, which means that Audi customers—like the customers of any other brand—can find themselves in the dealership.
Jamie Dennis, Audi Quality & Technical Service Director, explains that most problems can be handled by the technicians in a given dealership’s service bay. Sometimes, however, problems are elevated such that one of 20 Technical Field Managers needs to come out and lend some expertise to the problem at hand.
Given that they’re working hard to improve the customer experience, given the increasing number of Audis on the road, and given the fact that there are a limited number of the specialists, Dennis and his team decided that there had to be another way.
And so the Audi Technical Support team took a page from the medical community, and worked with VGo, a provider of robotic telepresence systems, and developed “ART”: Audi Robotic Telepresence.
Explains Brian Stockton, General Manager, Technical Support, Audi of America, “The device will give local service technicians valuable one-on-one interaction with their counterparts at Audi of America, which will not only benefit the speed and depth of service at the dealer level, but create an improved ownership experience for the customer in general.”
ART is a remotely controlled robot that is activated once the dealer-based technician decides that it is necessary to get some addition help from Audi of America. There is a screen where the “face” might be about the size of a small tablet computer; within the screen there is a small picture-in-a-picture, showing the technician back at HQ. There are both a borescope and a hand-held camera. The remote technician guides the person in the service department through the diagnostic analysis. When, for example, the borescope goes into a cylinder, the on-site technician sees the image on the ART screen and the remote advisor sees it on his, too, as there is a WiFi connection via the dealership’s secure network.
Dennis explains that this development was done by Audi of America and the people back at Audi in Ingolstadt are most impressed, seeing the potential for ART not only in dealerships, but actually for diagnostic maintenance personnel on the factory floor.
All this and discussions of automotive R&D spending, Mark Reuss on Tesla, and a whole lot more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” when John McElroy and I are joined by freelance auto journalist Mike Strong.
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