Six automotive trends driving the industry

In the new car market, many carmakers have realised the importance of online used car sales and providing fast motor finance.

Growing online car sales

In the new car market, many carmakers have realised the importance of online used car sales and providing fast motor finance. Big names such as BMW have expanded their online offering, determined to, as Franz Wimmer, general manager of modern retailing at BMWFS UK said, “embrace digital.” In the used car space, however, it has been start-ups, online used car dealers such as Hellocar, Carvana, and Carspring that have led the trend. With responsive live chats, well-developed digital storefronts, and speedy motor finance decisions, these online dealers may pose a threat to traditional dealerships.

Big players boosting carsharing

Ride sharing has continued to grow in popularity this year, with many fresh partnerships and propositions emerging. In April, ALD Automotive and Opel teamed up with carpooling service BlaBlaCar to launch a car sharing scheme in France, open to BlaBlaCar’s most loyal customers. Across the Atlantic, PSA Group made a splash as it relaunched in the US. The French car manufacturer immediately launched its car sharing service Free2Move in partnership with TravelCar. While the pilot programme is limited to Los Angeles airport, there are plans for subsequent expansion across the United States.

Driverless development speeding up

Autonomous and smart mobility features are becoming ever more mainstream in the industry as well-known OEMs invest heavily in the technology. Volkswagen China ploughed $180m (£144m) into Mobvoi, an artificial intelligence start up, and began a strategic partnership with them.  VW China’s funds will create a joint venture with Mobvoi, to further AI tech among the VW product range. VW said Mobvoi technology such as smart rear-view mirrors, instant messaging, and point of interest search were required for autonomous driving.

Low emissions on the agenda

One of the driving trends of the automotive industry is the continued shift towards lower emissions vehicles. Some of these pressures are coming from outside of the industry. London unveiled an ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) due to come into force in 2019, and other British cities are considering measures of their own. The plans will charge £24 for each non-Euro 4 compliant petrol vehicle and non-Euro 6 compliant diesel vehicle to drive through the zone. UK prime minister Theresa May seemed to hint that a scrappage scheme for diesel cars could become a possibility, but this remains to be seen. In the market, electric car maker Tesla continues to gain ground, with its valuation surpassing that of Ford.

Fleet management on the march

Fleet operators have explored new ways of managing their fleets, employing technology to make the process more convenient. Technology platforms such as epxy’s Select, and bynxMI, have been developed, aimed at fleet operators, for vehicle allocation and fleet management. Volkswagen’s Dutch branch opted for Sofico’s Miles platform, and decided to move its fleet contracts to the service. Daimler created its own fleet manager, Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services GmbH, branded as ‘connectbusiness’, for its business fleet customers.

Manufacturers establishing banks

Increasing numbers of manufacturers have established their own captive banks to provide motor finance, and other financial services. Hyundai Capital Bank Europe launched in Frankfurt this year, and offered Hyundai Finance captive motor finance, cutting out independents. “Unlike non-captive financial service providers we turn our attention explicitly to exclusive financing solutions,” said Markus Shrick, managing director at Hyundai Motor Deutschland. In the UK, Ford Credit Europe launched Ford Money, and, like RCI Bank before them, began to offer savings accounts to customers.