Earlier today, a press release went out confirming my next professional role to lead the Mobility Services and Customer Journeys efforts for NEVS. The T-Ford came to market. A super exciting step in a world that is undergoing a massive change and an industry. Saabvägen 5 in Trollhättan, Sweden feels incredible.
The times are changing
The First Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was an event in 1967 New York. The VCR (1970), the DVD (1996), and 3D Printers (2014) has been released to CES in the years that follows: the VCR (170,000) to name just a few. So why is this important to Saabblog? Well, besides being a huge event with lots of cool gadgets on display, CES is actually a big indicator as it happens in the technology world at large. This years' CES event in Las Vegas hosted what was attended by XNUMX people from all over the world and exhibitors in its automotive section. Automotive section? Yes, many of the major car manufacturers and their suppliers were present, including Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and even Volkswagen. Newcomer Faraday Future turned the event into a launch party for their new concept car. GM put a huge stake in the ground with the launch of their new Chevrolet Bolt, So what are all these automotive players doing at a consumer tradeshow?
The car as a platform
One of the key reasons why I have one of my former employers has so far been successful. Take Windows, take Office, take Dynamics, take even the Xbox. All of them can be used as individual products, but they have published interfaces that allow others to develop applications, services and peripherals on top of them. This encourages a huge ecosystem around the platform and drives innovation and more that is benefiting everyone, not the least the end consumers. Since the PC, we've seen many other successful examples, as the Android smartphone platform.
Let's take a car. Back in the 1900's this was initially a proprietary product, with an end-to-end supply chain that was owned and controlled by the car manufacturer. Now, many years later, there are many different cars, even from totally different manufacturers.
The role of software
However, that's the story on the hardware side. As Tom wrote in his "from hardware to softwareIt is still key, but where software is going to be a primary role. Intelligent with things like GPS, adaptive cruise control and side collision warning systems. Of course, you need software to control these functions too, but in relative terms, these are still pretty basic.
One of the keynote speakers at CES actually noted that the center of gravity for the US car industry is moving from Detroit to Silicon Valley, where many of the IT companies are headquartered. Soon all new cars will be connected. That may sound pretty futuristic to some people, but it is just a given and its happening today. Many manufacturers have been joining cars for quite some time (as an example, GM's OnStar system has been around for more than 20 years), but the functionality is dramatically expanding from things like automated crash response, vehicle diagnostics, door unlock, etc. to much more advanced functions like autonomous driving. But that's not the end of it. I believe that the car wants to be a complete ecosystem of software and business services.
Relatively soon as it may not be any longer. Owning probably wants to be moving forward, but alternative usage models are being developed quickly to allow consumers to use a car when and where they want to. Thinking only the songs you want from a streaming service on the basis of any device you choose versus buying the whole CD (or LP) and being bound to your own equipment to listen to the music.
Car sharing programs are already available in more than a thousand cities around the world (eg Greenwheels, Zipcar and GoCar, but also manufacturer-driven services like Daimler's Car2Go and BMW's DriveNow), but this market is still in flux. Uber-nominator "Lyft" has a partnership with GM to create a network of on-demand autonomous electric vehicles, a similar thought to what Panda New Energy is set to do with NEVS in China.
There is another important angle to this: cars are considered one of the world's most underutilized resources. According to a recent report by Morgan Stanley "Why Google and Apple may want to make your car"Average private car is less than 5% of its capacity. Imagine a world where most of us transport ourselves in pooled vehicles that so (mostly) drive autonomously. That would mean that we could replace 10 with 15 of today's cars. Adding to this the transition from combustion engines to electric powertrains, things are getting pretty interesting indeed! But there will be more mobility services needed in order to serve the time-pressed, demanding consumers in an increasingly congested and polluted world. The NEVS vision, a direction
It feels a bit unreal to be able to join the company. As many as you know, I've been a big fan of SAAB since I was in primary school. Over the years I have been able to collect some incredibly nice SAABs (among others a 9-5NG SportCombi), and every time someone passing through our driveway admiring one of the cars was asking "hey Michèl, do you happen to work at SAAB?", my wife or any of my children would be answering "not yet!". But now I want to be! While I'll be on the NAVS payroll and not on SAAB's, being offered a key role in a place that has a proud heritage around design, safety, quality and innovation is a huge privilege and simply the ultimate dream job.
It's going to be a big change in many respects. First the commute between Stockholm and Trollhattan and the odd trips to Beijing, Tianjin and other key locations around the world. Second: I suppose that working at a San Francisco-headquartered software company. But it's going to be great and I'm looking forward to starting in a few weeks from now!
Moving on from Saabblog
This new beginning sadly means to end to something else. In fact, the end to my role as author on Saabblog.net. Ever since my first post in October 2014, Tom and Mark and the enormous engagement from all of you, the SAAB community. As I hope you can understand, for new organizational reasons, NEVS can not be combined with contributing to an independent blog. I do not want to go far though ... I'm aiming to stay a very frequent visitor of Saabblog.net! For anyone wanting to stay in touch with me, I can be reached on email@example.com.