COMMENT: Automakers face choice between the old world and the new to secure their futures

The plurality of new business models which MaaS could bring offers automakers a lifeline for growth, but can they crack the code and compete with Silicon Valley? By Xavier Boucherat

In the not-too-distant future, the average customer on a (virtual?) dealership lot will have a very different set of preferences and requirements to those of today. Self-driving capabilities, online services and seamless connectivity to personal smart devices all seem set to become the norm, but there’s another question potential buyers might have: how easily can I share this vehicle with other drivers, such as holiday-makers who want to take a trip out of town, or delivery workers who need a car for their shift?

That’s according to Maven, GM’s peer-to-peer car-sharing service. The company posits that owning a largely idle asset like a car, which spends most of its lifetime on the side of the road, is becoming increasingly untenable for consumers. It is just one of the many new business models that could emerge from the burgeoning world of mobility as a service (MaaS).

Self-driving capabilities, online services and seamless connectivity to personal smart devices all seem set to become the norm, but there’s another question potential buyers might have: how easily can I share this vehicle with other drivers

The fact that one of the Big Three is talking very seriously about such models and playing with ideas on how to monetise connectivity speaks to a painful truth for automaker execs – the traditional profit pools of sales and aftersales are widely predicted to stagnate at some point in the next decade, and growth will have to come from somewhere else.

But even the idea of customers regularly filling up dealerships is becoming wishful thinking, particularly in built-up urban areas where the proliferation of ride-hailing services alongside public transport is making private ownership unnecessary. Some of these services have effectively established themselves as incumbents in the MaaS segment: for all its scandal, Uber isn’t going anywhere, and new mobility modes such as dockless scooters from the likes of Lime are surging in popularity – as well as causing headaches for city authorities the world over.

Now is the time for important strategic decisions, which could completely change the future of the automotive industry – and the role played by the automakers

Daimler’s car2go, GM’s Maven, VW’s Moia and Ford’s Chariot are all examples of the industry dipping its toes in the water, none of which yet represent a major part of their respective businesses.

But this could change. Looking forward, the automakers’ manufacturing and systems integration clout give them some advantages over Silicon Valley, but will they be able to be able to deliver the same highly polished user experience and interface? Will they be able to think as quickly as the software and tech industry? And will they find effective ways to monetise the vast quantities of new data that connected vehicles promise? Now is the time for important strategic decisions, which could completely change the future of the automotive industry – and the role played by the automakers.

A new Automotive World report discusses the impact of mobility services on the automotive industry. Special Report: The Path from Automaker to Mobility Provider is available to download and read today

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