How have 21st Century technologies allowed companies in the automotive industry to change their business models?
Since the beginning of the 21st century new players from the technology and communications sectors are entering the automotive industry and dramatically changing its chain value and traditional business model. The main segments that were altered significantly are production, sales experience, key partners, product innovation and R&D. Today the companies that follow have a chance to leap at the front of the game and those ahead might stay behind if their business model is not flexible at its core.
1) Transition from push production to demand pull and modular production
We have seen this change in an innumerable amount of industries but Dell is the first name to come in mind when talking about modular production. The automotive industry has been taking in at a late stage technological advances that arise in other industries. In this way production transitioned to offer products with attributes selected by the client, sometimes ordered through internet and delivered within 15 days; for instance, Toyota’s upstart Scion.
2) Changes in sales experience
Car dealers as sale points are being swept out as in the case of BMW and Tesla. BMW chooses to change the buying experience by introducing the ‘BMW product genius’ who will educate the customer on all the lines of products. The motivation of ‘BMW product genius’ is not to sell (they do not earn commissions per sale) but to build customer loyalty. It certainly takes after the service offered in Apple Stores. As to Tesla S1 electric car sold directly to customers is more aggressive and is reprimanded by car dealers. Not because they are direct competitors (Tesla’s sales represent 0.1% of US auto market) but because out of fear that other brands might follow.
Technology has disrupted the way people make their buying decisions; today people use platforms to determine who to trust and what to buy. Above that, consumers today value innovation in automobiles. They want to buy from the companies they perceive as brining new technology first to the market.
3) Product Innovation and R&D: Sustainable cars, Electric cars, Autonomous cars
In the ‘2016 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard’ 6 automakers are among the top 30 and the number of patent filings in the automotive industry also reflect an increase. Volkswagen was the company with the highest investment in R&D worldwide, until it stated struggling after falsifying environmental testing protocols. Innovation has become a top priority for automotive companies. Today there are at least 50 hybrid models in the market whereas in 2001 there were only 2.
Focusing only on downsizing internal combustion engines and fuel efficiency may mean leading companies may fall behind innovative companies in the future. Changes in their products must be timed as to gain acceptance and not lose their loyal customers.
The main product changes from mechanical to hybrid to electric to partly automated which shifted the sales motto of ‘faster, stronger’ to ‘sustainable, innovative’.
4) Shared ownership
Going a step further the ‘Car2Go’ by Daimler and ‘DriveNow’ by BMW services suggest no ownership. Another different example is ‘Autolib’ where the service is run by the government, a key partner, and the company providing the cars is unknown to the public.
Altogether there is more to technology innovation than changes to the product itself. It enables new business models and relationships between stakeholders. The emerging model is still to come but it is certain it will be driven by technology. The chain value and business model will be shifting as new stakeholders enter the industry with the advances in electronics, communications, alternative fuels and materials.