Current trends at the Car Symposium in Beijing still were: what mean EV for new brands and new services; what are the co-operations in the field of autonomous driving; what means EV for new mobility, or vice versa; manufacturing 4.0; and the future of automotive retail. After Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche reported from latest news from Mercedes and its view on the industry, a number of these issues were discussed on stage.
Naturally China was dominating the discussion, not only because of Beijing as this year’s place of the China motor show, but as it is the most important automotive market in the world, and the most innovative and dynamic technology companies are Chinese companies actually (Baidu, Huawei, Alibaba, to name only a few of them). All Western automotive players meanwhile have very active partnerships with Chinese giants and develop cutting edge technology and applications together. Whoever does not contribute to the Chinese-Western partnership, because he thinks that IP is not protected enough, is wrong in substance, first of all, and will lose contact to the world market leaders. The Chinese market has transformed itself over the last 5 years dramatically, much faster the any Western market, not only in terms of sales figures. Most of all this applies to the EV industry and can be observed when you walk over the fair in Beijing and watch all these new players on the market, having alternative energy cars available or many prototypes in starting position. Also, artificial intelligence, the internet of things or blockchain technology drives technology development. China currently builds the largest ecosystem in terms of electrification, connectivity, automation and sharing. Auto electrification is national strategy from the government, which explains the speed of development compared to Western infrastructure; this is not only about emission and air quality, it is about the automotive industry being classified as core to the Chinese economy, and also to reduce China´s fuel consumption, as China needs to import most of its oil and gas from abroad and that itself makes China dependent from suppliers. Clearly the Chinese government pushes towards electrification, given the fact that much of the imported fuel is lost on the streets. By 2020, 50 percent of the national car sales in China shall be electrified vehicles, and the definition of EV is even stricter than for example in Europe or the US. In terms of how a car should look like and its functionality, Chinese millennials see the world with different eyes. Data privacy is not considered as an issue, as long as it enhances customer experience. Increased sharing of cars will utilize cars differently — instead of one driver and two hours average running time, shared vehicles will run more than six hours every day and have at least three different users. Also, give the fact of an increasing level of automation, the user will not longer be a driver, it may become a passenger rather than a driver. While traditional car makers insist that cars should be able to please both, the driver and the passenger, Chinese concepts go more for automated and shared, i.e. rather a passenger customer experience, i.e. towards the robotaxi in the long run. Insurance companies offer intelligent insurance products such as on-demand insurance cover, cover for machine learning and artificial intelligence, but also warranty solutions for electric battery systems. Self-driving cars will provide increased safety, although vision zero cannot be taken for granted, and it can never be guaranteed that there will be no accidents any more in traffic, however the number and its impact can be significantly reduced. Automated driving also provides for a higher fuel efficiency, and a gain in productivity. Technically, automated driving is about sensors, computer power, data analytics, and artificial intelligence, i.e. self-learning systems. For example, the Vision Zero Ecosystem or Project Apollo have about ten or more stakeholders, every of them being the best in what they do. Legally, of course there is regulation of concern. Commercially, it is acknowledged that no stakeholder can develop such a system on its own, therefore the major players have a majority of joint venture partners from the various sectors involved, such as the internet companies, technology companies, software specialists, navigation data providers, traditional suppliers and, most important, the car producers. The systems need to be open at the end, so as to make sure that different systems from different providers can interact with each other. This will end in consolidation at the end, but the run right now will develop a variety of ideas and technologies. One can observe already now that most of the investments done in the automotive industry have been done with a view to the new automotive ecosystem, i.e. around automated driving, electrified vehicles, or connectivity. Analog companies have invested heavily in digital business, and more and more the direction of those investments turn into the other direction, i.e. it is the digital business that invests into traditional hardware producers. For example, Samsung bought Harmann, Foxconn invested in Xiaopeng Motors, Intel acquired Mobileye, Alibaba, Tencent, Didi raised fortunes to invest into the automotive market. The epicenter for technological development is — China. Chinese customers are open to try out new technologies, the Chinese Millennials see the world with different eyes, e-commerce in China dominates, Chinese customers watch more for the digital customer experience rather than motors or speeding ability. This does not mean that we will have at the end a completely different automotive industry but it will have additional sectors to cover, and the new sectors may provide for higher growth rates than the traditionals.