I’m always interested by what leaders in the car industry are predicting. It’s an industry where tech is vital and consumer buy-in even more so.
It’s also an industry which is gearing up for a massive shake-up – will car brands go the way of Kodak as car sharing becomes ubiquitous? Will car sharing even become ubiquitous? And will Elon Musk turn Tesla into one of the ‘big’ car makers?
So it’s always interesting to see if the big dogs are learning new tricks. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn gave an interview at the Paris Motor Show. On the Renault side, they were unveiling Zoe, an electric range with ‘above 300 kilometres [186 miles] in real driving condition, urban and suburban’. Renault was also showing off the Trésor:
“This concept car shows not only in terms of design but also in terms of technological features the bricks that are going to constitute the elements on which we’re going to be building the next generation of cars.”
He carried on with the building metaphor:
“At the end of the day, we’re architects. We’re architects of parts, we’re architects of technologies. We assemble technologies, we assemble parts to make a product. So we don’t have to do every single part, we don’t have to do every single technology. But we have to do them when nobody is doing them.”
It’s quite an interesting way of putting the process of building and developing cars. But I can’t help but think it’s quite detached from the consumer process. Research and development doesn’t happen in a silo, distinct from what consumers want.
When the car becomes a space where you work, where you connect, it becomes very personal and you don’t want to share it. - Highlight to share -
And in the same vein, do consumers really care about concept cars? Will they really make them buy into the brand?
The Brazilian-Lebanese-French businessman seems to be confident that the car isn’t on cruise control to extinction. Although he thinks that car sharing will become more common, it won’t dominate the market.
The reason for this will be the increased connectivity – as people plug in their smartphones and use technology to make their car an individual and bespoke environment:
“When the car becomes a space where you work, where you connect, it becomes very personal and you don’t want to share it.”
Renault-Nissan is seeking to be at the forefront of this kind of tech. In September, it acquired French software company Sylpheo, explaining in a statement:
“The team of developers and engineers at Sylpheo that are specialised in cloud solutions will join the Alliance to create a unique opportunity to work together on our next generation of connected vehicles as well as other advanced technologies.”
Connectivity will mean that cars will become even more of an extension of our lives. And the opportunities for UGC and data-collecting will only increase. And what can you do with UGC, data and what is effectively feedback?
Well, you can start creating a concept car based on what your customers actually want.
Of course, crowdsourcing a concept car can lead to some crazy ideas. - Highlight to share -
Of course, crowdsourcing a concept car can lead to some crazy ideas.
For example, Volkswagen launched its People’s Car Project in China in 2011, where the brand asked everyone to submit innovative vehicle ideas. Three concepts were picked from 119,000 ideas, including the Hover Car.
Yes, it might have been a marketing triumph, but I can’t see a hover car parking in a high street near you.
But UGC doesn’t necessarily only lead to wacky inventions. It can (and should) offer practical guidance too. It’s all about how you ask.
If customers feel they’re actually involved in the process, they’ll give you insight you couldn’t dream of getting anywhere else. We’ve seen the quality of what comes back – and we’ve seen clever brands absorb it into their DNA.
When creating a concept car, should you prioritise on fuel economy, or leg room? Cruise control or air con? The simplest way to work it out would be to ask existing car owners. We do.