Brands navigate steep mobility learning curve
The focus on the future of mobility hasn’t turned into a race yet. I expect that the major car brands are thinking there isn’t any clarity today about how to turn new mobility solutions into a workable economic model. The Ubers of this world are trying, but burning cash. It seems to me that that a lot of brands are looking at mobility businesses, but at the moment there is massive uncertainty about how anyone is going to get there. What is admirable is that these are old industrial businesses - they invented the machines that burn oil. They don’t necessarily have the answers today, but they are learning. They understand that they need to be in many of these new areas because one of them is going to be the way to the future.
Kantar Added Value
Brands must build greater difference, but it takes time
A lot of the mass market brands, and even some of the premium brands, have become quite interchangeable in the consumer’s mind. The distinctiveness of the luxury brands is limited. There are exceptions. There’s often a national hero brand. And there are degrees of loyalty. But most of the brands are doing just OK. Yet being distinctive is fundamental to effective branding. The customer care experience provides a way for brands to differentiate. The brands are waking up to this opportunity with apps. And the retail experience is another place to be different. But in the car industry change takes a long time. The brands need to become a lot more agile in the way they’re structured, think, and behave.
European Brand Planning Lead
Car ownership yields emotional satisfaction beyond transportation
In the 15 years that I’ve spent in the automotive industry, working for several brands, we’ve always debated whether a car is just transportation or something more. We asked, are people connected to their cars like they are to their refrigerators, or are they emotionally connected as they are to their favorite pet? This debate will continue. The mobility versus ownership conversation is about people as either passengers or drivers. Autonomy will include both comfort and safety features, which is what we see today. And people may select to turn the features on or off depending on the driving circumstances. The premium brands will continue to push for ownership and the fun aspects of driving. Most people would still prefer to own their house rather than spend every day of the week in an Airbnb rental apartment.
Managing Director, Geneva
All brands experimenting with autonomy, electric, and sharing possibilities
All the car brands are experimenting with electric cars, autonomous cars and car sharing, with the focus varying by brand. The most balanced brand may be BMW. It has been in electric cars for several years and has a car sharing system in place. BMW is not communicating much about autonomous cars, but the brand is heavily into connected cars. BMW acquired a Microsoft platform company to integrate apps into the car hardware to get unique selling propositions. One example: By having the apps only work in a BMW, they are seeking a competitive advantage. By recognizing the driver’s smartphone, the car could adjust the seat position and steering wheel automatically. By reading the driver’s calendar, the car could recommend the best route to take to a meeting.
Global Account Director, VW
Four certainties shape category transformation
The contrast between funding the present and preparing for the mobility future will be the primary tension of the automotive business for the next three decades. Carmakers invest now for products they will produce in five years. Historically, five years from now was predictable. It’s not anymore. There are four certainties shaping the tension between core automotive and a future that has some mobility in it. One is electrification. It seems sure that power trains will shift, but when and where and the penetration is less clear. As electrification grows, gas will become cheaper. Second is what people are calling car sharing. Third is autonomous vehicles. Finally, it’s the definition of mobility. We think of mobility as transportation of the human body. But what about Amazon? I don’t need to go to the shop for my groceries when Amazon delivers them to me. I haven’t moved. The object has moved. So, there is a fundamental reshaping of what we mean by mobility. And mobility is about efficiency and price so far – the cheapest way of getting across town. How do you make money? What’s the premium added value that’s going to cause me to choose one mobility service over another? These are the challenges in mapping the future.
Executive Vice President, Global Chief Strategy Officer