It hasn’t been an easy ride for the automotive industry over the last few years, but are things set to improve? From the COVID-19 pandemic to the shortage of semiconductors, the automotive industry has faced one hardship after another, and it doesn’t appear to stop there.
The scarcity of semiconductors has led to a bottleneck in the production of new cars, which has forced the demand and the prices of second-hand cars to soar. According to Auto Trader’s retail price index, the average price of a used car reached £17,548 in 2022 compared to £15,204 in 2021. This is having a detrimental impact on the inventory of cars available across the globe, both new and used. So, what can be done to remedy the knock-on effects on the market?
This year ahead will be challenging for the automotive industry – there’s no doubt about it. However, key players within the industry can look to refine their strategies for 2023, by taking into consideration these top 5 automotive trends.
What’s in this article?
Digitalisation within the automotive industry has seen a significant acceleration in recent years. The global pandemic led to dealerships having to rethink their online sales strategies, as their physical stores were forced to close. A variety of sales strategies have been trialled, with dealerships offering virtual walk-rounds, at-home test drives, vehicle delivery and live chat. Integrating online and in-person sales further is essential to continued business success in 2023.
The impact of digitalisation on dealerships is significant, with clear benefits for businesses that adopt best-practices and continue developing in this space. One core benefit is the ability dealerships have to collect customer data during the prospecting stages of the customer journey. Effective utilisation of this data can give organisations a substantial advantage over their competitors, as they are better able to tailor offers to customers. It also enables dealerships to form a more detailed understanding of their customers, which can be used in wider marketing activities.
Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a paradigm-shifting way to manage transport in the 21st century. MaaS solutions tap into a variety of transport networks to provide users with bespoke travel arrangements to suit their needs. On-demand mobility is an evolving concept that aligns with consumers and businesses moving away from vehicle ownership towards service-based transport. Much like the ‘Amazon Effect’ has caused retailers to reconsider the evolution of retail, MaaS is forcing the automotive industry to rethink how to position itself in-line with these new consumer habits.
There is significant pressure for the automotive industry to adopt MaaS, as its supporters praise its ability to reduce emissions, traffic congestion and air pollution, while promoting a significant individual saving for the end-user. It is little wonder why, according to Statista, estimates suggest the European (EU) MaaS market will be valued at over $450 billion by 2030.
Automotive companies can take advantage of this trend by investigating existing MaaS platforms. Businesses then have the option to partner with a provider to open their fleet to a whole new market. MaaS also provides companies with valuable user data, which can be used to tailor MaaS offerings alongside general product design. Organisations should view MaaS transactions as ‘paid-for test drives’, and consider contacting repeat users with bespoke finance or lease offers, converting MaaS users into paying customers.
Heavily promoting MaaS involvement is an effective way to open your organisation up to new markets, offering users a way to trial vehicles without any commitment to purchase. Luxury car providers in particular can benefit from these schemes significantly, by hiring out their vehicles for one-off events or promotional opportunities.
The development of autonomous vehicle technology has slowed, with manufacturers refocusing their attention on refining electric vehicles (EVs). Whilst this is partially driven by the government legislation to outlaw combustion engine vehicles by 2030, there are also signs within the market that autonomous technology is taking a backseat. The Ford Motor Co recently announced that it was diverting its spend away from autonomous technology towards EV development, as the manufacturer posted a significant fall in profits year-on-year.
Autonomous and AI-assisted vehicle technology remains far out of reach to the everyday consumer. Many marques have spent a significant amount of money on autonomous technology, and yet, very little progress has been made beyond the primitive stages. This is a worrying sign for investors, particularly in a challenging economic climate, especially as there are no new emerging developments entering the market.
As a result of this shift within the industry, marketing efforts should be redirected towards more prominent USPs, such as EVs, which comparatively are seeing more technological advancements. Initiatives like the expansion of ULEZ to all London Boroughs on 29th August 2023 are driving the demand for EVs, encouraging consumers to go green in a bid to fight pollution. While manufacturers continue to develop assisted driving technologies, these are in their infancy and marques must distinguish themselves through their market-ready products.
The emerging potential of IoT (Internet of Things) as it pertains to the automotive industry is a huge opportunity for manufacturers to develop their marketing approach. IoT solutions leverage a myriad of interconnected systems to offer a wide range of benefits to end users, such as enhanced safety, driving assistance and predictive maintenance. Leveraging user data acquired via these sensors can provide marketers with a wealth of opportunities to promote upselling.
Between 2022 and 2023, the automotive IoT market grew 14.2%, demonstrating the clear direction towards IoT and connectivity. IoT also provides manufacturers with significantly more opportunities to continue marketing to consumers post-purchase. Ensuring consistent brand messaging across all channels, from in-car infotainment systems to the company website, will maintain a longer-term relationship with the consumer, promoting both brand loyalty and brand advocacy.
Ongoing concerns around EV longevity and the mass-availability of batteries has led several marques, most notably Toyota, to explore the possibilities associated with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cell technology eliminates the emission of harmful pollutants, replacing them with water. Not only is this a far more environmentally-friendly alternative, but it has the potential to be more widely available than batteries. EV batteries rely on a variety of core materials, particularly nickel, with a significant demand being drawn from other industries.
The rise of environmentally-conscious consumers are forcing manufacturers to find more sustainable alternatives to transportation. Environmental performance has become a priority for many consumers, with 66% of car buyers considering the environmental impact of the vehicle before purchasing. Consumers are willing to pay over £2,000 more for a car with greener emissions, so it’s vital that the attention is now placed upon the eco-friendliness of vehicles and the reduction of pollutants.
Although hydrogen fuel cells are not as well-recognised as EVs, it is important for manufacturers and dealerships alike to start focusing their attention towards adoption. Educating consumers on the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology and the associated environmental impact is vital to positioning brands as a key player in this market. Developing key messaging that appeals to the awareness stage will ensure automotive businesses can stake themselves a place in this developing market.
However, manufacturers should be cautious of a product-category monopoly occurring, as is the case with Tesla and the EV market. Failure to establish authority early on will see dealerships and manufacturers shut-out with existing players consolidating their position.
Turbulent times within the automotive industry have created an air of uncertainty as of late, however, embracing the changing landscape will open manufacturers and dealerships to new opportunities. Automotive marketing will always be driven by appeals to luxury, value-for-money and longevity, so it’s important to streamline the messaging to focus on the core USPs. Automotive businesses must continue to harness data utilisation to prepare them for changes in consumer behaviour.
It’s essential for key players within the automotive industry to get ahead of the game and adapt their marketing strategies in response to market developments. Concentrating less on autonomous technology and more on automotive IoT and hydrogen fuel cells will see automotive brands rewarded in the future. Building awareness and educating consumers on the changing market will build authority and trust in a climate where brand loyalty is in decline.
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