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Driving Force: Your in-car concierge awaits ...

As fancy as some cars are, there’s always a limit. Buyers in the premium segment naturally want luxury and technology, but automakers have to balance several factors, including the cost, what technology is available, and if it can be integrated into a vehicle.

In recent years, auto companies have put a premium on time and convenience. Today, some of the hottest “must-have” features are ones that make the vehicle an extension of the driver’s itinerary, such as those that let an owner integrate a smartphone and the applications he or she already uses.

Infiniti has taken this a step further with its new Infiniti Personal Assistant, or IPA, which is standard on every 2013 Infiniti model. The owner is given a toll-free number that connects to a “personal concierge,” who identifies him through his phone number. The operator will answer just about any request, from hotel reservations and directory assistance, to sports scores, stock market updates, weather forecasts, and more.

“We are the first automotive manufacturer in Canada to offer this,” says Michael Kopke, chief marketing manager for Infiniti. “You actually get a human being. You’re not hitting ‘one’ for this and ‘two’ for that.

“It could be as simple as booking a restaurant or ordering flowers, but when we tested it before launching, we had IPA help with sourcing a refrigerator at the best price and the location to find it.”

The service is unusual in that it can be accessed anywhere by telephone, rather than only through the vehicle itself (it will work on a phone paired to the car, of course). While the call connects to a U.S. centre, and information can be obtained for just about anything worldwide, calls from Canada are answered in English or French, and information is Canadian-specific when required.

Depending on the request, answers can be given right away, or sent as a text message or email. Links are included so information can be downloaded into smartphones, such as a Google map or a company’s website.

“It’s part of being participatory in the luxury segment,” Kopke says. “People are busy. If they’re not busy with their profession, they’re busy with their family lives. We’re catering to our customers, whether they’re stuck in traffic or taking kids to soccer practice.”

Details

  •  Older models. IPA plans can be purchased by drivers who already own a 2012 or older Infiniti vehicle. Several companies offer connection services, such as GM’s OnStar, but Infiniti says it is the first to offer a concierge service.

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