While Switzerland is slowly moving back to a new normal, Andy (CPO) and Rena (CMO) from Car For You were talking about the long term impact of Covid-19 to the automotive industry.
Andy, What connects you with the automotive industry?
I grew up in an automotive family. My grandmother worked on an assembly line in the 1940s, my brothers ran dealerships and my father was an engineer at Ford for 40 years. I’ve spent the bulk of my career working with automotive retailers helping them to shift to the digital economy. As a Product Manager at ADP Dealer Services (CDK Global) I introduced dealers to marketing automation and as part of the launch team at cars.com I was able to bring consumers and dealers on an equal playing field.
What is it that excites you since all these years about automotive?
Outside of space exploration and companies like #NASA, #JPL, and #SpaceX, there’s not another industry so focused on meeting consumers technology needs in the most private space where most of us choose to spend a lot of our time. The different fuel types, the connected car, and mobility are topics for the next 50 years, and how the automotive industry responds will determine the success and/or failure of entire brands. Tesla continues to push barriers, launching cars into space and reaching 400 miles on a single charge. That’s exciting stuff.
How do you experience the impact of corona to the automotive industry?
Covid-19 has changed people’s relationship with public spaces. The impact is turning into broadscale cultural and societal trends that will shape the automotive industry during our lifetimes. Much in the same way that the assembly line altered what was before a more boutique ownership model. It’s too early to know, but recent data from Deloitte that ⅓ of Swiss may shun public transportation in favor of more personal means of transport shows that people are concerned.
The long-term impact will likely be more apparent after the potential for a second wave has come, and/or gone. If it were to come back similar to the first wave then we would likely see the erosion of ride-sharing and more of a focus on autonomous vehicles. The impact on public transportation will be severe and long lasting. There’s also the interesting phenomenon of the environmental impact. The overarching concerns around carbon emissions did not go away during the pandemic. Even with record unemployment, people have continued to value cleaner air and water as priorities. So, the implications on the automotive industry continue to revolve around more sustainable car ownership models and a stronger focus on emissions.
"Consumers want to feel good about their decision"
When it comes to Switzerland, there will be more of a demand from consumers to increase the offering of green cars and other modes of transportation that provide more safety and security from other passengers. The winners in Switzerland today and in the future will continue to revolve around the consumer and serving their needs and desires around automotive ownership. A car is one of the largest purchases a consumer will make in their lifetime and they want to feel good about their decision. It’s more than the brand’s responsibility to serve the consumer, it also falls to the retailer. Consumers in Switzerland are very smart about who they choose to do business with and they continue to become more selective about where they spend their money.
What’s your current “so what”?
There is a lot of doom and gloom predicted in the automotive press, and global media. 100K+ job losses, factories closing, and lots of livelihoods will be impacted. That much is true. However, growing up in Detroit gives me the advantage of having witnessed this with the Big 3 (Ford, GM, Chrysler) many times in the past. Manufacturers come and go, and new ones like Tesla and Fisker emerge as leaders.
One constant remains and it is that this industry is resilient. Successful automotive retailers have diversified their consumer offerings (service, finance, insurance, renting, etc.), new companies have entered as players and established new business models with innovative offerings.
"Consumers still want cars that make them feel good about themselves"
My takeaway from the current situation is that consumers want cars that make them feel good about themselves, and that is not changing in any broad way. The supply chain is suffering, and smart automotive retailers are finding new ways to connect with consumers through social media, groups and other methods that allow them to relate more directly to their customers.