QR Codes Enhance Car Shopping Experience

by Don Elliott on November 1, 2011

The U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the first redesign of the new fuel economy window labels in 30 years. The redesigned label first seen on 2012 model vehicles will offer new information regarding city/highway mileage, annual fuel costs, and comparisons with other vehicles in that class.

The new marking is known as a Quick Response or QR code. At first glance, it has no apparent value, but it is similar to bar codes we see on everything from a sack of potatoes to computer equipment. The most significant difference is that a QR code is two-dimensional, providing significantly more storage capacity and better readability. With the free application added to any smart phone, car shoppers can scan the QR code to access much more information than the window label includes.

The history of QR codes has an automotive origin. They were originally created in 1994 by DENSO, a division of Toyota in Japan. Each QR code symbol can carry several hundred times more data than a convention bar code in one-tenth of the space. It can be read from any direction, will self-correct damages or scratches, and has an open specification that is available worldwide.

With a bit of irony, Nissan recently announced that they would be the first original equipment automobile manufacturer to include QR codes on their vehicles’ window stickers. QR codes are being mandated for all new vehicles in the United States, but not until the 2013 model year.

QR Code Helps Buyers Decipher Car Value

In June, Nissan provided Quick Response codes on their 2012 Nissan Altima and Sentra models. Dubbed the “On Vehicle Graphic” by Nissan, the QR code campaign will provide shoppers with several previously unavailable resources. Beyond what is available from the window sticker, scanning the QR code will provide video-based product overviews, current incentives, vehicle comparisons, dealership contact information, available inventory, and enhanced product information. Salespeople will be able to provide car-side presentations on iPads or the customer’s own phone.

Early reports from Nissan indicate the QR code users are not just clicking on the QR code to see the first page, but accessing multiple pages for more information and to communicate with the dealer.

Beyond the DOT’s and car manufacturers’ QR code use, the open source nature of QR coding makes it possible for an endless array of information that can be added to any car to help the shopping process. Dealerships can provide ownership background information, service facilities, aftermarket products, additional franchises, promotions, and even promote non-automotive topics like charity organizations in the code.

If you haven’t already added a QR reader to your smart phone, plan on doing it soon. In the near future, QR codes will be on everything to provide quick access to information. If you already have a QR reader, scan the code above. It will show features, benefits, and a video on the 2012 Nissan Altima—all from that little black and white box!

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