Tag Archives: Detroit

New York, Beijing, Paris, Goodwood

Auto Show See Touch SmellRecent months have seen repeated calls for a UK motor show. So far this year we’ve had Detroit, Geneva, Beijing; Paris is next. Why not the UK? We’re Europe’s second largest market, and poised to become its third-biggest manufacturer, producing luxury brands Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Range Rover and Jaguar as well cars for the global market leader, Toyota.

But the fact is that motor shows are moving away from traditional automotive locations. The best European show is Geneva’s, in a country with no automotive industry and an ambivalent attitude to motoring. China’s auto industry is in its infancy, yet the industry descends on the Beijing and Shanghai shows. And New York is becoming a favoured event even though it’s a million miles from Detroit in motor culture.

There’s a change of axis which is driving this. Asia is now the world’s economic powerhouse, and with its emerging economies is the land of mass opportunity for car sales. In the mature markets a smaller show like New York is now as likely to be chosen for a major launch, especially by high-equity brands – Land Rover used it this year to unveil its future in the form of the Vision concept, because the city is a style capital, global influencer and catalyst to the US market. Detroit is not.

But the New York show itself is just like Detroit and all the others: an anachronism. Cars – things which move, transform our lives and stir the soul – parked uninspiringly on stands in vast exhibition centres. And with little to excite or involve the customer. In the age of experiential marketing, digital communication and virtual reality, the motor show needs new forms.

In that sense, the UK already has a motor show. It took place last weekend and it’s called the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s a social event, a celebration, a place where the famous are there as themselves, where the cars are the celebrities and are driven rather than merely displayed. It’s an occasion. A networking opportunity with props.

fos130713_E5A5751_2700013bThat attracts people – 200,000 of them -and it attracts the carmakers, who get involved in not only the celebration of motor sport at the core of the event but now also bring – and allow visitors to drive – everyday models in a lovely setting. The Festival’s Moving Motor Show alone attracted 19 car brands this year, so not just those with performance models. Dacia, Renault’s Romanian budget brand, was there with its entire range; manufacturers launch new models there (18 this year): this is now a mainstream motor show, even if it takes place outside in the grounds of a stately home.

The Festival of Speed is not a template – it’s unique, idiosyncratic – but it is an illustration of what people want from a motor show: interaction, informality, fun. Despite the incredible pace of vehicle development, the industry’s other motor shows are stuck in the 1960s. They need to change, especially if they’re not in a hot market.

If carmakers’ design and R&D brains which are transforming mobility and allowing the industry to reinvent itself for a more sustainable world could be applied to the production of motor shows, the experience could surely be transformed into something spectacularly cutting-edge. Combine that with the Festival’s more intimate virtues and it would be inspiring.

 

 

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Ford drives a future with fewer cars

Shanghai overpassAlmost hidden behind the parade of new cars signalling a rejuvenated motor industry at the Detroit motor show, Ford has made some interesting minor headlines with CEO Alan Mulally talking about the bigger issue of future personal mobility. The remarkable fact here is that other carmakers aren’t also speaking out on the subject.

The motor industry is changing faster than ever before. But it’s a bigger picture than that. Cars are just one form of personal mobility. Private and public transport are merging. The whole transport landscape is becoming integrated, inseparable from energy considerations and the environment. Major cities are already at car capacity and struggling to develop mobility solutions which will work. Which are sustainable.

Part of this involves excluding cars from city centres, yet that is precisely why the car companies should be leading discussion and planning for future urban mobility. They need to not only offer temporary or complementary solutions but to be at the core of the new transport model, whether in providing micro-footprint mobility devices, public transport vehicles, components or infrastructure.

Easier for a Tesla than a Toyota for sure. But before long, car companies will not be able to exist in their current form. Mulally cut to the point, saying that simply building more and more cars is “not going to work”. The industry is currently focused almost solely on the existing model: customer buys car, uses it in all situations, swaps it for another. It gives the customer huge choice – of different brands and variants which don’t fit the world we’re about to be living in. It doesn’t reflect the culture now required.

Already, buying habits are changing. Consumers are eschewing larger cars. Younger people are putting off buying vehicles. Existing cities are adding pedestrian areas, bike lanes and trees. Megacities are evolving to a new, connected blueprint. Quality of life is as much a driver as consumerism.

Car companies traditionally don’t lead. They follow legislative requirement and market imperative. But when they do so they excel – look at the extraordinary reduction in CO2 emissions and increases in engine efficiency and performance over the past few years. They could do so in the wider, emerging mobility landscape too.

Credit to Mulally for being so direct. And why shouldn’t Ford be the car company to lead opinion? More than any other it has the mobility credentials. It’s an everyman brand, started by a man who gave motoring to the masses with the Model T, and in recent years it’s invested huge amounts in to environmental R&D.

Credit to Mulally also for admitting to not yet knowing precisely what role Ford will play in future mobility. But he’s giving it the thought it needs. And with that approach Ford could be a vital part of the big mobility plan. A mobility brand.