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The future of mobility: the convergence of electrification, urbanization, and new retail paradigms

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By Julien Geffard

· 4 min read

Megatrends are disrupting mobility

The landscape of transportation is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by the convergence of electrification, urbanization, and digitalization. As electric vehicles (EVs) gain momentum, the mobility sector is adapting to meet evolving customer expectations. This transition is not just about switching to electric propulsion; it's a fusion of multiple megatrends that are reshaping the way we move. This journey towards the "smart city" is aptly summarized by Johann Jungwirth:

"With electrification combined with mobile technology, we have access to a plethora of services and opportunities."

This convergence signifies the seamless integration of electric vehicles into densely populated urban areas, empowered by digital technologies. It's not merely about cleaner transportation; it's a holistic shift in urban living, where EVs, digital connectivity, and sustainable practices come together to redefine how we navigate and experience our cities.

Net zero target emissions

As the European Union recognizes the importance of transportation for the free movement of individuals, goods, and services, there's an increasing need to support transport systems while addressing the growing concerns of congestion and carbon emissions. The EU's ambitious goal to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050 places even greater emphasis on sustainable and efficient mobility solutions.

The European Union has embarked on an ambitious journey to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. To attain this goal, the EU is implementing a multifaceted approach, including aggressive emission reduction targets, investing in renewable energy sources, promoting energy efficiency, and fostering sustainable transportation solutions. Through stringent regulations, such as emissions caps and carbon pricing mechanisms, the EU aims to drive a fundamental shift towards greener, more sustainable practices across various sectors, ensuring a cleaner and more environmentally responsible future.

In this rapidly changing landscape, the traditional dealership model, which has remained largely unchanged for over a century, faces a wake-up call. Customers' expectations have evolved, thanks to their experiences with digital services and the convenience of modern retail. The question that looms large is whether dealerships will adapt to these changing dynamics or become obsolete.

En route toward the New Retail

Battery-electric vehicle (BEV) owners, in particular, have heightened expectations for their ownership experience, viewing their EVs not merely as modes of transport but as integral components of their daily lives. To meet these demands, dealerships will need to undergo a transformation of their own, exploring innovative sales channels and experiential centers.

The shift towards a new retail paradigm in the automotive industry signifies a fundamental transformation in how vehicles are sold and experienced. Consumers will have more online purchasing options, streamlined and simplified buying processes, and the ability to customize and order vehicles online. Dealerships will evolve into experience centers, prioritizing customer interaction, test drives, and personalized consultations over extensive inventory. Vehicle subscription services will provide flexibility and hassle-free access, and some manufacturers may opt for direct sales. Digital showrooms and augmented reality will enhance the virtual shopping experience, and data-driven personalization will tailor services to individual preferences. These changes aim to cater to evolving consumer expectations, offering more convenience, personalization, and flexibility.

This shift towards a new retail paradigm in the automotive industry isn't a matter of if but when. Whether it will be a gradual process or an abrupt transition remains an open question, but it is clear that the traditional distribution model is undergoing profound changes. Manufacturers and retailers alike are reimagining their approach to future sales distribution in response to these shifting customer expectations.

The advent of the new EV product category has ignited a wave of innovation, and we are just scratching the surface of the transformative possibilities that lie ahead.

Key takeaways

In summary, the automotive industry is at a crossroads, driven by the dynamic fusion of electrification, urbanization, and digitalization. This convergence is reshaping not only how we move but also how we envision the cities of the future. The European Union's ambitious goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 underscores the urgency of embracing sustainable and efficient mobility solutions.

As traditional dealership models face inevitable change, the shift towards a new retail paradigm is already underway. Consumers will soon have unprecedented flexibility and personalization in the way they purchase and experience vehicles. The question that remains is how swiftly and comprehensively this transformation will take place. The road ahead is marked by innovation and promise, leaving us to ponder: What other transformative possibilities lie ahead in the evolving landscape of mobility and smart cities?

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Julien Geffard is Head of Europe in Ola's electric mobility division, spearheading its launch and operations. He embarked on his professional journey at Fiat Group, later venturing into BMW's French subsidiary and Bentley Motors in Europe & the UK, where he served as Head of Marketing Network. He has also been CMO for the Alpine brand within the Renault Group and Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for Peugeot's two-wheeler division.

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