The car is considered by many as the ultimate symbol of the 20th Century. It embodies the key values that made the past century what it was:
– Stories of the Self-Made Man, mobile and free
– Democratisation of skills and technical knowledge
– Accelerating movement of goods and persons
– Mass consumption to ever-higher levels
These values made their mark on the global collective imagination through the Hollywood dream machine, and have been the basis for the branding landscape that we know today.
So it should be no surprise to see that, as we start to realise just how different the values that rule this century might be, we see these wide-ranging changes reflected in the car industry at every level.
Over the coming few weeks, we will shed light on the future of the automotive industry through a series of articles addressing each of these values and their emerging replacements. Here are some of the themes we’re going to be touching upon…
Death of the Car Salesman
The way we buy cars is changing. The old-fashioned model of the car salesman in his dealership may seem like something from the 80’s – but really it has been unchanged since the late 50’s. As in every other industry, technology is playing an ever-growing part in the sales process.
Major brands seem to have finally noticed the potential to revolutionise this key part of the relationship between driver and vehicle. Online orders offering complete configuration and door to door delivery, gigantic car dispensers, apps that instantly estimate the value of a car from a picture of its license plate… The purchasing process is being changed in exciting new ways every day. And consumers are eager to get on board.
No More Tinkering
Over the past century, knowledge of engine mechanics and how to fix various parts of a car had gradually replaced woodworking, hunting or horse riding as key skills any man should know. Changing gaskets and cleaning oil filters became part of daily conversation. However the arrival of advanced electronics in car engines is making this more and more unlikely, if not downright impossible: these days even professional mechanics need a specialised computer to run any kind of diagnostic on a recent model.
Additionally, new attitudes to copyright (and their accompanying set of patent protection laws) make cars seem headed in the same direction as personal electronics: where fixing it yourself is not just impossible; but very much illegal. What adjustments will be necessary in this new, more platonic relationship between owner and engine?
Follow That Car
While competition in the 20th century was all about the speed at which people and things could transit across the globe, the focus is now square and centre on information – how much of it, what debit, and how fresh it is. Cars obviously reflect this and are getting smarter and more connected each year. They famously carry more advanced electronics and advanced data processing than not only the lunar module of Apollo 11, but than all the space program of 1969.
They are also getting increasingly connected: with the apparition of live software updates, smart vehicles, self-driving cars, centrally-organised highways, and more, there are a million ways in which cars collect and share information on their drivers. Already many are looking at the huge potential value present in this generated data, as others did with social networks, mobile phones, or online shopping. Join us as we explore some of the many implications for drivers, manufacturers, and marketing.
The Car in a Sharing Economy
Owning a car has been a symbol of independence for generations, and a symbol of status for even longer. A private space one can carry with them, it has been used by any and all to express personal taste, social class, political affiliation, patriotism, rebellion… The first car is a rite of passage in Germany, and building an art vehicle is one of the core parts of the Burning Man experience. Privately owned taxis have helped shape the distinctive characters of New York, Paris, London and Tokyo.
So what happens when the sharing economy, which has already disrupted the taxi industry beyond recognition, catches up with car ownership? Giants on the market are already making plans, but the exact shape the future will take remains uncertain. Despite this uncertainty, certain key trends are emerging, and some key facts are useful to keep in mind.
More detail on one of these topics next week. Any further information, contact BAMM at firstname.lastname@example.org.