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The New Normal: Investment, Innovation and Change

CX Insights - Trend Watch - Automotive Industry (ICYMI June 2022)

ICYMI - I doubt many would disagree with the statement that the future of mobility is coming faster than we can discard the past. While it’s true that supply chain disruptions and chip availability have continued to slow down production, it by no means has slowed down innovation and change.

This month, we’d like to highlight the renewed focus in Detroit and the Midwest, and how innovations are going beyond just electrifying transportation as we continue “stepping into the future” and Robo-taxis become a reality worldwide. In addition, our “of-note” section highlights how our industry is embracing “the metaverse” (a currently amorphous term being used to describe any digital manipulation of reality, be it virtual, augmented, etc.) in showcases, promotions and even in built-in car entertainment systems.  

Please, read on! 


Investment in the "Motherland" Detroit & Midwest

It’s true that investment in the industry has gone global, and in some cases, U.S.-based OEMs may be playing catch-up. However, headlines in June continued to highlight not only our renewed focus in domestic mobility, but also its commitment to where it all started. Motor City and the Midwest should continue to be a Mecca for the industry for the foreseeable future. :

  1. No plans to leave Detroit behind: Last month we shared how GM CEO Mary Barra outlined her plan to create in-house lithium batteries in response to global shortage. Not to be outdone with good news, GM President Mark Reuss recently announced an additional $7 billion to revive Automation Alley plants that stood dormant for decades. His personal mission: Champion Michigan as the EV center of the world – and the automotive center of the world once more. 

  2. Tight race between Tesla & VW, says CEO: Kind of makes you want one, right? In addition to the announcements above, GM has earmarked $81 million toward creating the highly limited Cadillac Celestiq EV model. This will be the first time GM’s new tech campus housed in Warren, Michigan, will manufacture commercial vehicles for purchase, and anticipation is high.

Innovations Beyond Electric

We have talked about the investment behind changing from ICE (internal combustion engine) to electric and the required charging infrastructure to support it (e.g., how GM, Ford and Tesla are tackling the national EV charging challenge). But the efforts to ensure an exceptional customer experience that’s still an ongoing headline-capturing topic. As we can see from these June stories, the industry needs more than just power innovation, and I am sure we will learn of many more stories like the ones below in the future.

  1. Innovate Collaboratively, Integrate Tech Uniquely: Purdue University hosted the 50th annual North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC). In advance of the conference, Dr. Jeffrey Abell, chief scientist for global manufacturing and director of manufacturing systems research at General Motors, shared his thoughts about how AI isreshaping the manufacturing process – and how manufacturers can stay ahead of the curve by adopting the new tools and operations these changes demand.

  2. Inductive Charges on Stellantis’ Roadmap: What if you could drive an EV without wasting any charge? That’s exactly what Stellantis is testing at its Arena del Futuro test track, where it recently reported an electric Fiat 500 traveled at high speeds without using any of its battery power. Here’s how this special track did it, as well as how Stellantis might build out such an infrastructure for the public…   

  3. Hyundai’s keeping an eye on the tires: Partnering with Michelin, Hyundai is actively researching ways to develop and introduce eco-friendly tires into the mainstream. While this means seeking materials that will reduce environmental impact as efficiently as an EV can, it also means joint research to test wear, load, friction and more – a partnership both have signed on to for five years. 
  4. Two EVs, one charger: General Motors was experimenting with DC current and smart layer switches in its Ultium batteries with the goal of charging two battery packs at once. It’s succeeded, and patents for this new charging technology have already been filed. Think daisy chain setups and you’re not far off from how this new charging tech operates.

Rising Levels of Autonomy

The race for a revenue-generating autonomous business model continues as now GM’s Cruise also joins Way in San Francisco in actually having unmanned, paid-for rides. While there will always be blocks on the road (literally in this case in San Francisco), it’s called testing for a reason, right? Regardless, it’s great to see the future coming to fruition. Across the ponds, we also see how Hyundai is conducting its own testing in Korea as well as Stellantis starting Level 3 autonomy testing. 
  1. GM “Cruising” to first place in driverless bid: GM’s Cruise division secured a huge win by being the first company to secure a commercial, driverless ride-hail service in the state of California. Specifically, Cruise is operating in San Francisco and has wasted no time in opening up shop in a small-scale manner, promising widespread coverage and lower fares upon its continued success.

  2. Gangnam Style 2.0, by Hyundai: Last year, Hyundai revealed its Ioniq 5 model, which was capable of reaching Level 4 autonomy – complete self-driving capability. Today, Ioniq 5 has launched in Seoul’s famous Gangnam district, where the first RoboRides launched to great success. Here are more details about Hyundai’s exciting new driverless ride hailing service. 

  3. 2024 is the year of Stellantis: While Mercedes was the first to reach Level 3 autonomous status for its EVs, Stellantis will be ready to join them in short order. The reason? Valeo-developed lidar systems, which, when equipped on Stellantis vehicles, will provide that coveted level of autonomy that eludes even Tesla vehicles at this moment. 

  4. Driverless trucks? Thank Uber & Waymo: The future of cargo trucking might be now, as Uber and Waymo announced they are joining forces to get driverless trucks on the highways of America. Reduced fleet costs and human risk are among the driving factors for why this goal is top of mind, but what else could this technology bring over the horizon? 

To The Metaverse & Beyond

As we move forward into the mobility future, we can’t ignore the interest and hype surrounding new digital realities being enabled by Web3, which is actively being defined as we speak. Anything from virtual reality to blockchain technology-enabled tokens are being dubbed as a part of the metaverse. Some headlines this month show that the automotive industry is indeed keeping up with the times. I’m certain this attention will help in part to improve the current attitudes and experiences amongst Generation Z, which, as teased in a recent research article, do not seem to be as excited about the prospect of buying a car as other generations before. 

  1. No ride will be boring again: If you don’t believe OEMs are serious about changing up every facet of the automotive experience, take a look at this article from Wunderman Thompson. In it is a who’s who of the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) upgrades various automakers across the world are implementing, with Audi, Porsche and BMW chief among them.

  2. A Mini VR racing experience: Mini USA has partnered with Meta to create a virtual racing experience within the metaverse. The goal: Experience a thrilling track-based competition against like-minded Mini enthusiasts across the globe from the safety of cyberspace. Will this translate to brand hype – and more importantly, sales? Let’s find out! 

  3. Entering Web3 like a Chevy: Chevrolet recently entered the Web3 space with a splash, announcing a global auction for an exclusive NFT version of its upcoming 2023 Corvette Z06 – as well as an actual Z06. Partnering with digital artist xsullo and platformed on SuperRare, bids were only accepted via Ethereum cryptocurrency and generated incredible amounts of hype.

  4. Hyundai setting up NFT shop: Presented earlier this year at CES, Hyundai Motor officially launched its community-based NFT market, being the first automaker to do so. In it, the OEM communicates available NFTs via Discord and Twitter, with Meta Kongz assisting Hyundai in exclusive NFT creation based on major events – the first 30 of which were themed around celebrating this partnership. 

  5. Virtual stunners from Japan: Not to be outdone by their neighboring rivals, Nissan and Toyota have implemented the Metaverse in business-related ways. For example, Toyota is using it as a virtual workspace tool, with avatars chatting and discussing business with one another. Nissan built a VR-version of its Nissan Crossing gallery to showcase its new Ariya EV model. This approach has not gone unnoticed by some European automakers… 

For further information on how we got to where we are, I encourage you to check out our previous ICYMI blog posts throughout 2022 and 2021.