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Social Media Run Amok May 26, 2011

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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Toyota has announced that it is launching a social network for its cars, enabling drivers to interact with their cars on Facebook, Twitter and a new private social network called Toyota Friend.  You can search for charging stations (if relevant – there is no all-electric Toyota yet), check your tires’ air pressure and, well, I guess relate better to your ride.  Maybe understand its feelings, and know when it’s needs a treat.  “The car can talk to me, and I can talk to the car,” said Kraig Swensrud, senior vice president of marketing at Salesforce.com, which is powering the new network.

Um, no.  I don’t get it.

Is this really what the young car buyer wants to do with their car?  Or any buyer, for that matter?  A modern vehicle already tells you of just about any maintenance issue, including low air pressure and when the next oil change is due; you don’t have to “friend” your car and log onto a social network for that information.

Treating our cars as animate beings insults all of us, Toyota.  And it’s a cheap stunt that adds no value to car ownership.  My guess is that you’ll get a small minority of car buyers to try out Toyota’s new social network, with only a few hardcore enthusiasts maintaining any sort of lasting connection.  I’m well aware that there are people who believe they form an emotional bond with their cars, which is questionable in and of itself, but this takes it to its absurd conclusion.

UPDATE“Honda had contacted about 280,000 customers via a mail campaign in 2009 asking them to register their personal websites. As part of that campaign, Honda had pre-populated each personal Web page with details about the owner and his or her vehicles. Data from these personal sites is what appears to have been illegally accessed.”

Brilliant.  Please keep computers away from the auto companies.

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