Month: August 2016

On Dropping Cars from Aircraft

I use Twitter and Linked-In to direct readers to my blog, and to track the clicks.  Twenty clicks is good.  Last week, in response to a question, I posted some calculations about an old television commercial in which a car is dropped from a helicopter.  That got 7,000 clicks.

My original paper is here.  So far, it has been downloaded over 1,000 times.  People are retweeting it around the world, and trolling me about terminal velocity.   Ordinarily, the only velocity I care about is how fast the car leaves inventory.  Drop one from the sky, though, and that’s popular.

I think it was a Chevy commercial.  They drop a car from 4,000 feet up, while another car races to pass the target before the falling car strikes.  This takes roughly 16 seconds.  It only works because the second car gets a running start.  It is already going 172 MPH when it reaches the starting line.

Such a car would be able to accelerate from zero to 60 MPH in 2.75 seconds. 

The paper includes a table showing how they chose 4,000 feet based on the speed of the ground car.  Troll alert: the falling car does not reach terminal velocity until roughly 285 MPH, assuming 0.3 coefficient of drag.


Back when this commercial was filmed, it was inconceivable that a car could beat gravity from a standing start.  Acceleration due to gravity, one “G,” is 21.8 MPH per second.  Released from the helicopter, the falling car reaches 60 MPH in 2.75 seconds.

Thanks to the instant torque available in electric cars, the newly announced Tesla model S P100D does zero to 60 in 2.50 seconds.  This is a lot of arithmetic (and a lot of Twitter clicks) to prove one thing: Tesla should remake the commercial.

Buy Your Next Car from a Robot

110717I like Make My Deal, and I never get tired of seeing the demo.  I like Make My Deal because they have a novel solution to the key problem with selling cars online.  The problem is that, while most of the process can be put online, everything is blocked until a price is negotiated.  Make My Deal solves the problem by making price negotiation part of the online process.

My favorite part of the demo is the transcripts of online sales dialogues.  I could study these for hours, analyzing the language and style of successful dialogues.  Stop and think about that for a second.  You could, if you were a motivated sales manager, use these transcripts as a training tool.

Instead of me and the sales manager eyeballing transcripts from a single dealership, we could collect statistics on the entire Make My Deal archive.  We could set criteria such as closing ratio, or highest gross, and analyze the language most likely to produce those outcomes.

Responses were fed into Kessler’s Consumer Language Tool, which analyzed common language among the highest and lowest closers.

Jason Kessler of CDK Global has done exactly that, using data from email negotiations, and running them through his proprietary language analysis tool.  This technique, sentiment analysis, is also used by stock traders to glean market insights from social media.

The other fun thing about online negotiation is that your ace closer doesn’t have to be onsite.  She can work from home, handling leads from multiple stores.  She could even be a robot, running talk tracks from a tool like Kessler’s.

I don’t really expect robots to replace salespeople anytime soon, but I do expect to see a selling platform that integrates email and chat, with live and virtual agents sharing the work.  Many dealers already use chat systems, of which Make My Deal is a special case.

  • Integrate email and chat
  • Include virtual agents
  • Sell protection products

Virtual agents like those from Help on Click and 247 could handle routine parts of the dialogue and even help coach the weaker salespeople.  For those of you wary of sharing your desk with a robot, recall that the talk tracks came from human closers to begin with.

One process ripe for automation is selling protection products.  As I wrote in an earlier post, the in-store menu presentation will be replaced by an online interview.  Everyone knows the stock questions like, “how long will you keep the car?” and “how far do you commute?”  Aspiring robots can hone their skills here.