How can car brands prosper in an uberized world?
Consumers don’t care who built the bus or train they ride on; they care about the service: Are the vehicles comfortable and clean? Do they run on time to the destinations they want? Are they affordable?
Shared mobility and increasingly autonomous vehicles are already blurring the lines between the previously distinct domains of car ownership and public transport. And with a continual stream of new players entering the evolving mobility market, “traditional” automakers are partnering with start-ups to increase agility and bring to market innovative solutions. Most already have strategies in place to transition from being vehicle manufacturers to “providers of mobility solutions”.
“Consumers want perfect personalization, helpful services and a new level of in-car entertainment. The vast majority of this is now being driven by digital products and technologies empowered by the arrival of 5G and cloud computing.”
In an interview with Bloomberg in early 2018, the late Fiat Chrysler boss, Sergio Marchionne, stressed that automakers have less than a decade to reinvent themselves or risk being commoditized. He went on to say that premium and niche brands will still be able to profit from the performance and exclusivity of their products, but mainstream brands will have to restructure and reposition themselves to remain competitive.
The driver focus that has dominated thinking in how most car brands are positioned is receding as the passenger moves increasingly to the forefront. This is now placing the emphasis on user experience as the brand shaper.
“Consumers want perfect personalization, helpful services and a new level of in-car entertainment,” says Jason B. Johnson, HARMAN's Director of User Experience Design & Studio Lead, Huemen. “The vast majority of this is now being driven by digital products and technologies empowered by the arrival of 5G and cloud computing.”
For automakers, this means a shift in the emotional interface away from the long-established focus on powertrain and towards other new touchpoints. Several recent concepts already feature autonomously driven “platforms” equipped with interchangeable cabins for transporting passengers or goods as required, which literally detaches the in-vehicle experience from the means of propulsion.
HARMAN’s rapidly expanding portfolio of digital and cloud-based products and technologies – which builds on its decades of experience and more than 50 million vehicles on the road – is already helping automakers tackle this shift across a wide range of fully integrated UI/UX applications. The challenges are substantial, but there are immense opportunities, too. “Products such as our Digital Cockpit, advanced display technologies and Intelligent Personal Assistant are just a few of the current brand differentiation options,” says Johnson. “Going forward, this will be amplified by the far-reaching integrated connectivity benefits of ‘invisible’ solutions and services enabled, for example, by our Ignite cloud platform.”