Consumer behaviour changing the way manufacturers think about cars

Brian Joss – The global automotive industry has reached an inflection point but South African-born Johan de Nysschen, who has held positions at four premium brands – BMW, Audi, Infiniti, and Cadillac – believes that the world’s key players will remain strong in the future, despite the arrival of a host of start-up companies, including Tesla.

De Nysschen, who has been in the automotive business for 30 years and whose most recent position was president of Cadillac and a General Motors executive vice president, was speaking at the recent NAAMSA Automotive Conference that took place at the 2018 Festival of Motoring.

His topic was titled “Driving revolutionary change led by consumer mobility shifts and technology-driven trend. A visionary leader’s perspective in reshaping traditional automotive industry structures and relationships”, which he shortened to “The future of mobility.”

De Nysschen, who currently lives in New York, said that efficient mobility solutions were essential as the number of so-called global megacities – those with populations of more than 10 million people living in the metropolitan area – were set to grow from the current 33 to 43 by 2030.

He said this meant that individual mobility in passenger cars was almost a thing of the past for many people living in urban areas, quoting the high costs of taking a car into New York City as the city fathers try and cut congestion and emissions in the city. First, he said, there is a toll fee of

R220 to enter the CBD, then you will be lucky to find a parking spot for R4 000 a month, while a parking bay in a Manhattan office block will cost about R13 000 a month!

The experienced motorman said he was very aware of the fact that the Chinese government was assisting its motor industry to develop pure electric vehicles – many of them in the budget segment of the market – as a way to dominate the critical mass of EVs. However, he expects the established brands to take the high road in EV development, with the premium brands leading the way in terms of advanced technology and features in these zero-emission vehicles.

“One thing is that the OEMs are on a fairly level playing field as they develop EV technology and subsequent high-volume production of zero emission EVs,” said De Nysschen.

“Manufacturing these EVs will be far simpler than building the current, complex models with internal combustion engines. Electric vehicles are like skateboards with batteries in the floor and electric motors driving one or both sets of wheels. It will then be fairly simple to engineer a variety of body types to fit on the basic ‘skateboard’ underpinnings,” explained De Nysschen.

He went on to explain how consumer behaviour was changing and the way in which increasing connectivity was bringing data into the car which can be used for a multitude of purposes, many of them with major benefits in terms of safety on the road as vehicles ‘talk’ to each other.

There is also a growing trend among young people not to worry about getting a vehicle driving licence, but rather to use public transport, ride-hailing, or ride-sharing personal transport options. For instance, the licensing authority in Germany is reporting a 28% drop in applications over the past five years.

De Nysschen said that it would be a while before fully autonomous vehicles are generally available, but, in the meantime, motorists are already benefitting from a number of artificial intelligence features that improve safety. He added that fully autonomous cars were wanted by the ride-hailing or car sharing operators as removing the driver saved about 30% in costs.

He concluded his presentation by saying that the current major OEMs could well become contract makers to the ride-hailing and ride-sharing companies, building electric, autonomous vehicles to suit the specific requirements of these rapidly-growing businesses.

CAPTION: Upgraded: the Mazda CX-3. Picture: Quickpic

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