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Too much traffic, too many cars, lousy driving, public transport, very few parking spaces, air pollution. Of course, these are not trends that are shaping the industry. Well, maybe not directly. These are probably some of the complaints of people who had been in Istanbul, even for a short period. On the other hand, these also make up some of the consumer feedback for the automotive industry to respond to.
World Automotive Conference was held in Istanbul on October 17, 2019. Wyndham Grand Hotel in Levent hosted 839 senior representatives of the automotive industry from more than 20 countries for the highly anticipated event. Fifty speakers took the stage, presented their solutions for keeping pace with future trends of the sector, managing global economic challenges, and overcoming changing industry demands.
The digitalization of technology was more focused on than ever before. Even though the automotive industry seems mostly mechanical, almost all of the speakers put a finger on how digitalization disrupted (and is still disrupting) the industry.
Odile Panciatici, VP of Blockchain, Groupe Renault, explained how Renault is using blockchain technology to have more efficient production pipelines. Ömer Özgür Çetinoğlu, CIO, TOFAŞ FIAT, told how 'agility' is driving innovation in their company. Arda Bafra, Executive Director of Design, Automotive, Maxim Integrated, gave a glimpse of how to design the car of the future.
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Everyone took the stage gave a reference to --or talked about the rise of connected devices, agility in innovative processes, B2B collaboration --especially with startups, user-centric approach in design, and automated driving in detail. Not long ago, the industry was about more powerful engines, horsepowers, aerodynamics, comfort, and the exterior design of vehicles. Consumer demands are changing, transforming the industry with the digitalization of technology. The automotive industry is offering solutions for greener cars, public transportation, driving assistance and autonomous driving, smart infrastructure, and many innovative ways to satisfy the demands of customers.
More than 50 presentations and keynotes were held, and nearly all presenters and speakers mentioned how they are changing their production and marketing strategies through digitalization and the latest user feedback. Software and data are becoming essential to develop both local and global strategies.
Kimberly Matenchuk, Senior Director of Sales at GE Digital, United Kingdom, says that innovation is dependent on the needs. She gives examples of Fintech, which originated in Africa because most of the African nations don’t have access to banks, and the first 3D printed building, which is in Dubai because more efficient construction methods were needed. She tells that Turkey can lead innovation in autonomous and electric vehicles because of the demand, which is a consequence of traffic and pollution problems, especially in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara.
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Katharina Hopp, Vice President Urban Solutions, Robert Bosch GmbH, and Çiğdem Penn, Owner, Xsights Research and Consultancy, also speaks about how customer-centric approach leading more innovative ride-share solutions to the traffic jam, parking lot, and air pollution problems. Hopp summarizes their method in three steps: collecting data from users, partnering with the major or minor actors of the industry, activating the ecosystem. Of course, then, repeat.
Ömer Özgür Çetinoğlu, CIO, TOFAŞ FIAT, points out how automotive trends are coming from other sectors such as IT. He explains how TOFAŞ FIAT’s IT department became a more active agent in innovation and production process, and changed the company’s innovation culture. He tells that they implemented the agile method of software development and transformed TOFAŞ FIAT’s sales & marketing strategy by digitalizing the showrooms. He says that conventional methods don’t work anymore to meet customer needs.
Agility for Innovation
Çetinoğlu explained in detail how he transformed the company’s IT to, what he calls, “Inspiring IT.” He tells us that the IT department is an integral part of the strategic decision-making process, as well as product development, production pipeline, and commercial department. All of the innovation in these departments of TOFAŞ FIAT is driven by the implementation of agile methods, according to Çelikoğlu. Ghasem Navid Moghaddam, Team NEO, Rheinmetall Automotive AG, advocates for adopting agility, too.
Katharina Hopp also talked about the importance of an ‘agile mindset’ for driving innovation. She says it’s good for quick adaptation, by listening and understanding, to consumer needs. But it doesn’t work every time, she adds.
Partnering is absolutely a buzzword for the future of the industry. Katharina Hopp mentions it on the topic of solving urban transportation. She talks about the importance of partnerships between startups, major companies, local and central governments. She tells that collaboration might lead to unique solutions for unique problems.
Arda Bafra, Executive Director of Design, Automotive, Maxim Integrated, describes the car of the future. He presents the concept of the future car like an estate. He says it’s the 3rd environment we live in, and he’s got a point. He says we will be both drivers and passengers at the same time when autonomous cars become more available and affordable. Two things will have the most importance; displays and entertainment (infotainment systems) inside the car, and safety features. Both require high-speed data communication, he adds. There are lots of challenges he brings to attention, but he says that these can be overcome with collective efforts, partnering big brands and startups.
Emre Ayyıldız, Garenta and ikinciyeni.com, General Manager, also explains their collaboration strategy with local and central governments is crucial for their growth.
Connectivity and Data
Bafra’s presentation brings us to another buzzword in automotive --and maybe all tech industry: connectivity. Connectivity plays an incredibly important role in Bafra’s future concept car. Lots of high-speed connections should be established around the car for a safer autonomous driving experience. High bandwidth connections are required to display 3K-4K videos in real-time.
Bafra isn’t the only one who highlighted the importance of connectivity and data. Ömer Özgür Çetinoğlu also listed connectivity among EVs, diverse mobility, and digitalization which are the leading technologies that drive innovation in the automotive industry.
Katharina Hopp is among the presenters who talk about the importance of connectivity for gathering data for public transportation, parking, traffic, and environmental problems in urban areas. Dr. Taner Göçmez, Vice President, FEV Asia GmbH, offers a campus autonomous shuttle concept for shared mobility in which requires the use of connected services to collect and process data.
Autonomous and Electric Vehicles
We should wait a little longer than we expected for efficient EVs and autonomous vehicles, according to Murat Okçuoğlu from Automotive Safety and Forensic Research. But it seems that industry is generally very hyped about EVs and autonomous vehicles. Okçuoğlu argues that battery technology should develop much further to have efficient EVs, and he says that we’re very far away from anything that can compete with combustion engines’ performances. On the other hand, most of the participants of WAC think that the automotive industry should focus on what customers want, and they want greener cars that don’t need fossil fuels to operate.
Ghasem Navid Moghaddam explains that consumer & tech forces are hitting the automotive industry. He tells that changing demography and demands of the new generation of consumers are driven by facts like the climate crisis. A new mobility ecosystem is emerging among AI and other emerging technologies’ interaction, changing the value chain.
Dr. Angelika Sodian, Former MD NIO UK, China Expert and Author, believes that customer demand can transform the industry much faster. Taner Göçmen thinks government legislation that encourages EV production, R&D, and trade can trigger innovation in a short period.
There is a lot more valuable insight to get from World Automotive Conference. It is interesting to see the direction of the industry is heading to. The landscape seems like we’re closer to a science-fictional future: cars without drivers, which can speak back to you and run without fossil fuel.