What We Care About Most In Cars & Homes: Lessons From Detroit Auto Show

Like all Detroiters, my family treks to the Detroit auto show* every January to enjoy the circus automakers have prepared for us. It’s always fun to sit in cars I could never afford, gawk at concept vehicles that’ll never hit the road, and marvel at luxury machinery Ford crams into ‘rugged’ pickups.

Since I’ve freed my mind on finance and housing, core themes I cover here at The Basis Point applied as I walked the show floor. After all, car buying is just like home buying—a major life decision that we finance.

I was curious to see if technology is influencing how automakers sell customer experience as much as it influences finance firms.

Media hype suggests self driving cars are the priority. But at the actual show, big trucks prevail, environment be damned.

The description of Chevy’s new $82,000 Suburban focuses more its 14 device charging ports than driving autonomy.

That messaging still rules today just like it did in 2000: more space, more features, more comfort.

The lesson?

When it comes to big ticket items like cars and houses, it’s all about making life better. The experience is your better life with that car, not the process of getting the car.

The auto industry is way ahead of the housing industry on selling lifestyle. For decades, it’s been about how badass you’ll feel in that new ride.

Meanwhile lenders are telling you how easy the loan process is. Your loan won’t have a lot of paper, it’ll all be on your phone.

Duh. This seems revolutionary to lenders who’ve been buried in paper most of their existence, but you’ve been paperless in every aspect of your life—including car buying—for years now. This is our expectation, not a revolution.

So while many loan officers serving you on the ground are great at talking to you about your life and family vision as a home buyer, their company’s message is almost always too focused on the loan process.

Lenders out there need to remember that when you’re out there researching, you’re going to migrate to the companies that have a great message about your lifestyle.

Firms that are brand-forward instead of loan officer-forward know how to sell the dream and the vision at a company level.

Firms like Opendoor talk about how buying and selling a home should be as easy as trading in your car. They do this because they began on the real estate brokerage side and are now expanding into lending.

Detroit-based Quicken Loans owned the speedy/easy loan process years ago with Rocket Mortgage, and while most other lenders are still scrambling to copy this approach, Quicken has moved on and now offers the whole concierge process for home buying with Rocket Homes.

Imagine your amazing new home with more space, more features, more comfort.

This is what we care about in home buying. Speed and ease of getting the home is a given.

That’s why self-driving technology exhibits were tucked in a basement at the auto show. It’s not the main event. It’s what powers space, features, and comfort we look for in car ownership. Same with lending to home buyers: the technology is under the hood, but it’s not the lead selling point.

That’s why we spend most of our time talking to you the consumer here at The Basis Point and not the finance and housing industries that serve you. Because we believe if we show them how to talk to you, they’ll eventually get it right themselves.

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* Fun Fact: the Detroit auto show is actually called the North American International Auto Show, a relic of a name from an earlier time when Detroit was too self-conscious to promote the city on the national stage. No one from here calls it that, though.