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Report from Frankfurt Motor Show - Die Zukunft ist jetzt

The automotive market is on the precipice of its most exciting development since Henry Ford started mass production. Technology and the consumer have never had a more important role to play.

As part of automotive client research and ongoing market education, Connect took a trip to the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt. Here's what we learnt...

It's very clear that this is a show dominated by the major German Auto marques. Mercedes-Benz, VW Group and BMW each occupying an entire hall of the enormous Messe exhibition centre. It's quite clear that for these three manufacturer groups, home turf is a battleground where the biggest and brashest car launches are the ones that make the impact.

Technology features throughout the exhibition, from futuristic concepts right through to imminent releases. These range from the possibilities of James Bond-esque flying cars (yes, we met a guy who designed a flying car!) right through to autonomous connected vehicles and how the car integrates with the home and becomes an extension of it.

Let's focus on that for a moment – why would anyone want their car to be an extension of their home/office?

Purpose, for some busy individuals the car is a necessary means of transportation to and from work. A 1-2 hour commute, thrown in with a school run will impact upon time and productivity. Imagine being able to action your emails, submit yesterday's report and prep for your 9.30am with a coffee in hand en route to the office, or hitting that deadline while on the move ensuring you get home for family dinner. A car you charge at home and charges your home back when idling, it even plays the same playlist seamlessly from when you left the house.

The biggest focus of the show has been on an environmentally safe vehicle solution to powering vehicles for which there seems to be three main options...electric, hydrogen, and fuel cell technology all taking varying guises. All three are viable and sustainable but not without faults they have benefits in different uses, I.e. Urban vs Rural, long vs short haul. All manufacturers are taking Low Carbon Vehicles (LCV) exceptionally seriously, considering recent industry scandals and laws across Europe starting to radically change the market. OEMs are having to rethink the powertrain for the use of the vehicle. Again, this boils down to purpose.  

In addition to OEMs there are entire halls full of technology partners who work with manufacturers in areas ranging from in-car entertainment, safety, connectivity, navigation and much more.

We are entering an age where technology will enable the vehicle to wrap itself around the customer's needs, instead of the customer adapting behaviour to the vehicle. The auto industry is now awakening to an era of customer-centricity, where the lines blur between car vehicle and lifestyle accessory, following in the footsteps of the tech giants. Fewer people use their phone to make telephone calls, will fewer people actually drive their car?

Yes, over the years, OEMs have 'talked a good game' on the matter of customer-centricity. However the solution has always been four wheels plus engine plus accessories adapted to lifestyle. The difference has been incremental.

Now manufacturers are playing the game, involving technology vendors, developing solutions with their key customer at the heart (be they consumer, business, government or NFP) from powertrain solutions through to autonomy.

Instead of asking "how can our car help it?", the question is "what can we build to achieve it?".

Buying decisions will be more lifestyle/purpose driven, and brands should own it and deliver from early engagement, to purchase to service.

To quote a large billboard at IAA: "Die Zukunft ist jetzt." – the future is now.

And purpose will drive it.

Mark Woolaston, Business Development Manager

01902 714 957