The future of the automotive industry


ROSSLYN, South Africa (August 28, 2018) – Albert Einstein once said: “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” Similarly, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

These quotes from legendary inventors illustrate that pioneers don’t simply give people what they want. They look to the future and create innovative products that become indispensable, even if people are initially doubtful.

Modern cars are incredibly complex, yet smart machines. They have complicated electronic control units, intelligent software systems and myriad sensors that constantly monitor various elements inside, and outside the car. Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility features are leading the way with technological advancements that are ahead of their time because the company has been working towards zero emissions and zero fatalities for many years.

Similar to the evolution of the cars, the business model for auto manufacturers have also grown into one that’s focused on software and services, or in other words, cars that constantly offer higher levels of connectivity, safety and autonomy while also ensuring that consumers receive higher levels of customised service.

The digital advancements currently taking place are not without their challenges, particularly regarding security and the possibility of hacking connected cars, but the automotive industry is well aware of these issues, which will not stand in the way of the evolution of passenger transportation.

We live in an incredibly digital and connected world. According to the South African Communications department, more than half the population of 55-million people are active internet users and 18-million people have social media accounts. These statistics are expected to increase year on year as data prices drop and cheaper smartphones become available.

According to Deloitte’s Global Automotive Consumer Survey 2017, customer desirability for basic and advanced automation is higher in South Africa than China, Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The survey also states that there is a higher average proportion of consumers in the country who are willing to pay for future vehicle technologies that improve safety, security and connectivity.

Therefore, the car of the future will have interactive entertainment, predictive maintenance, data visualisation, artificial intelligence that enhances safety, connected devices and, of course, constant access to social media channels. The days of texting while driving and the inherent dangers of such an activity will be a thing of the past as the car of the future will seamlessly integrate social media sharing on the go.

A digital experience is made up of several integrated engagement channels that empower customers to do what they want anywhere and anytime. Customers of the future will expect to manage their lives across multiple channels to enjoy a connected experience from searching for cars on mobile devices to experiencing a virtual reality version of the car and being able to schedule services via social media channels.

Customers are already able to shop in virtual reality to a degree with interactive websites that offer a host of vehicle customisation tools. In the not-too-distant future, they will enjoy a full virtual reality experience that will include individually tailored test drives that make proper use of this technology.

When customers come into a dealership of the future, they will walk into showrooms that are powered by artificial intelligence, digital displays and “chatbot” assistants, but they would’ve engaged with the brand electronically long before walking into an actual dealership. Nissan is already planning for this future by incorporating myriad digital methods of communicating with potential customers and by incorporating modern methods of making information easier to access.

This future is achievable if carmakers look at customer experiences holistically; if they understand and prioritise customer needs; design, test and learn; and innovate beyond what’s expected.

Nissan is taking a disruptive approach to the future with a suite of technologies that are not only aimed at providing comfort, performance and safety, but which also remove the stress from a daily commute. We’re well on track for the digital future that science fiction writers have been dreaming about for decades and which we are lucky to navigate with innovations that move the world closer towards a safer, and more sustainable future.

Lizette Crause is the Nissan Group of Africa General Manager Network Development and Training.