3 ways car manufacturers are adapting to future proof their businesses

Take a quick flick through the news over the past couple of weeks and you’ll notice automotive manufacturers making headlines. But interestingly, it’s not releases of new models that are garnering media attention. In fact, it’s innovative propositions and the integration of new technologies that are gaining traction.  Increasingly, automotive manufacturers are acknowledging that the traditional idea of producing one vehicle for one person or family may not cater to the vast majority of their customers needs’ in the near future, as patterns of mobility change. Here are three ways car manufacturers are adapting to future proof their businesses and better meet consumers’ needs:

Car sharing

As consumers look for ways to save money and travel conveniently from A to B, it seems inevitable that car sharing will increase in popularity in the coming years. Car clubs such as Zipcar and City Car Club allow drivers to rent vehicles from convenient nearby locations quickly and easily for short periods of time. Car sharing in is predicted to grow in the coming years: the US is predicted to have 3.8m users by 2020, according to research by the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

To tap in this phenomenon and ensure relevance in the light of changing patterns of car ownership, Ford is what is testing what it calls the Ford Credit Link app, which lets up to six drivers split the cost of a 24-month car lease and arrange their use of the vehicle between them.

Digital car keys

Similarly, Volvo is hoping to integrate its cars into the sharing economy and its bid to do this has seen the company experiment with digital car keys. In last month’s Agile Innovation Update we discussed how the manufacturer is trialling an app that allows owners to lock or unlock their car and start the engine from their smartphones. Aside from the convenience of using a car without a physical key, it’s likely that Volvo’s main intention here is to make their cars more easily shareable, helping them to future-proof their vehicles.

Driverless cars

BMW celebrated its centenary recently with a live-streamed presentation looking forward to the next 100 years in the automotive industry and the future of mobility. As part of the event, children were interviewed about their perceptions of the car of the future and their responses centred on ‘intelligent’ cars – their vision is not of a machine to transport passengers from A to B, but more of a mobile lifestyle unit first and a means of transport second.

Driverless cars will likely have a large role to play in this vision for the future of mobility, with several major manufacturers as well as tech companies such as Google aiming to release their first vehicles within the next five years. With the driving responsibility given to the car instead, more emphasis will be placed on comfort, conveniences and lifestyle for the passengers as they relax or work during the journey.

Once again, the rise of driverless vehicles will likely boost the car sharing trend – Travis Kalanick, the CEO of ridesharing start-up Uber – has said he would buy 500,000 driverless Tesla cars in 2020 if the vehicles are ready by then.

This future of mobility would offer consumers greater value for money and a more efficient use of vehicles – in 2013, it was estimated that cars worldwide are unused for 92-96% of the time, according to ReinventingParking.org. It will be fascinating to see which manufacturers adopt the best strategy to tap into this in the coming years.