Blog: Dave LeggettNewsflash! Our relationship with the motor car is evolving

Dave Leggett | 30 June 2015

The world

The world's megacities (and they are rapidly growing in both number and size) will benefit from smarter and more sustainable transportation

It's a recurring theme. We seem to be on the cusp of big changes that will profoundly impact car manufacturers, technology providers, component suppliers and all of us who move around - especially if we live in cities.

The really big question is this: How quickly is this change coming? Now that's not an easy question to answer, but we can see some signs of significant change out there now. Car sharing is finding a niche, a place in the transport market spectrum and OEMs are addressing it. Better to use your competitive strengths to get some of that business yourself than let others in the value chain do it for you. Clever apps on portable devices are opening up possibilities for smarter journeys, integrating journey transport modes with real-time updates and so on. We're seeing some disruptive business models already. Uber is causing some consternation with taxi drivers and is also now looking at urban delivery. What do you think Apple or Google might have in mind? Do you think they look at the auto industry and see dinosaurs, possibly? Business models and companies that look a tad tired? Apple, let's just remind ourselves, has hired some pretty smart people from the automotive industry.

Advanced driver assistance systems? There is plenty of advanced technology on today's cars. Active safety is one thing, but cars are now available that can actually park themselves. There is also a roadmap for the rollout of more advanced systems that will take control of the car in certain controlled environments.

The possibilities facilitated by connectivity (personal and vehicular) and other advanced technologies are exciting, even if they will keep some people awake at night. Cities across the world are congested and emissions (CO2 and noxious pollutants) are a problem. Smarter transportation offers solutions to making cities much more agreeable places to live. The car will play a central role. Powertrain innovations - conventional ICE and alternative - illustrate how the auto industry can effectively adapt to consumer wants and regulatory changes.

However, if transport becomes a more commoditised product, instinct suggests it could be bad news for car companies that have traditionally traded on product differentiation and brand emotion. Heck, the traditional model of a car that you buy from a dealership and own is far from broke, but we are seeing changes and traditional models will be under pressure. The companies that grasp the nature of the changes taking place, what's feasible and what the market really wants, will be the eventual winners. Car companies with brands and products that people are attracted to are definitely in the mix. 

I'm looking forward to some updates, food for thought and networking at an event that examines these themes and more in London later this week. Frost & Sullivan's Intelligent Mobility.  

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