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ADAPT OR DIE

ADAPT OR DIE

Millennials and Digital Natives have a greater need for mobility even than the generations before them. They are not sitting at home or in the office – they move about more often and freely with their smartphone than previous generations did with their cars. This means that there is a growth opportunity, and a branding opportunity to secure a relationship with them

Due to the almost religious attachment to private automobile, humankind has ended up destroying cities which were developed for liveability, proximity and efficiency. Flawed urban planning has led to congestion, smog and pollution that consistently reduced the quality of life. However, with the development of intuitive and automated technology, electrification of transport, mobility-as-a-service, smart energy and flexible, communal working models, we have the potential to become smart again. What is needed is human-centred bottom-up approach where people will have choices according to their own preferences, says Lukas Neckermann.An expert in mobility and smart cities, he was the keynote speaker at the recent Goodyear tyre conference in Cologne. Author of Smart Mobility, he is consulted by governments and companies. In this interview to Tyre Asia he looks at the emerging automotive scenarios in China and India, the world’s fastest growing markets

TA News Bureau

Two major Asian economies – China and India – have announced plans to switch to electrification of the mobility sector. In this context what do you think are the challenges before governments, automotive and tyre companies?

The challenges for any government are to find a correct balance between a) the quality of air and life that urban citizens deserve, b) fostering innovation for the business environment, and c) ensuring global competitiveness. For all companies within the automotive ecosystem, it is about understanding electrification as a significant, international business opportunity. There is no sense in defending old technologies – it didn’t work for typewriters and for 35mm cameras; it won’t work for the internal combustion engine. Adapt or die.

How should CEOs of companies strategize their manufacturing and marketing policies to address the emerging challenges and opportunities thrown open by electrification?

It is a good time to review long-term manufacturing capacities and amortisation. In terms of marketing, this should be seen as a positioning question. Do they want to be seen by shareholders, by the government, by customers and partners as traditionalists, or do they want to be innovators? Their communication should be in line with where they want to be (not where they are currently).

China and India have large populations of millennials who are tech savvy and ambitious. How should automobile and tyre companies evolve plans to target this population segment who are different from their elder generation?

Millennials and Digital Natives have a greater need for mobility even than the generations before them. They are not sitting at home or in the office – they move about more often and freely with their smartphone than previous generations did with their cars. This means that there is a growth opportunity, and a branding opportunity to secure a relationship with them. Just know it’s a software relationship, not a hardware relationship, and can switch very quickly.

Why have the world failed to commercialise automobile propulsion systems based on electric, hydrogen and automated driving technologies that were available for decades?

Electric vehicle technology has existed for over 100 years – Thomas Edison built one of the first! But only recently have the further preconditions for electrification come together: a) urbanisation has changed lifestyles b) the lithium-ion battery has given EVs the range we need, c) the smartphone has given us new connectivity and the mobility options. On top of that, air quality concerns are becoming much, much more pressing today, which is aligning political, economic and social interests.

What kind of enabling laws and regulations will usher in widespread use of these technologies as they are pollution-free and environmentally sustainable?

I believe that a wide collection of “soft” factors are more effective than top-down mandates. electric-vehicle lanes and free parking, congestion charging, urban access restrictions, road-use taxation, penalties for short-range use of vehicles and incentives for public transport use all could be used in combination. It’s also important to create a startup-friendly environment, such that new business models in mobility, such as electric-vehicle ridesharing, ridehailing and carsharing, can flourish.

Will smart cities hasten the introduction of a new mobility culture based on autonomous vehicles?

The topic of “Smart Cities” is a broad one that encompasses energy, infrastructure, data, mobility, and most importantly, the citizens of a city. Each needs to be actively engaged.

(Published in February-March 2018 issue of Tyre Asia)

 

 

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