It’s vital for carmakers to keep pace with future mobility challenges, says Toyota GB’s Paul Van der Burgh. Paul Myles reports. [Mob.Myles.2016.08.09]

Mobility solutions are a major feature in Toyota’s future transport production strategy, according to Paul Van der Burgh, president and managing director at Toyota GB.

And he told TU-Automotive that much of that strategy will use lessons learned from Toyota’s two-year trial of Cite Lib in the French city of Grenoble.

The trial allowed anyone 18 or older and holding a valid driving licence to register with the system to drive Toyota electric vehicles (EVs). Using a smartphone app, subscribers were able to see the real-time location of vehicles that are charged and ready to use.

Users were also able to pick up their car and drop it off at a different location – any of 27 charging stations in the greater Grenoble area – rather than having to make a round-trip. When the vehicle was dropped off, it becomes plugged into the station to be recharged and ready for the next customer.

Van der Burgh said: “There are different ways of doing car-sharing. You can either do point-to-point, base-to-base and there’s lots of different ways of working out the logistics of where you want to get to.

“We have learned a lot from our Grenoble test around how people used the vehicles, the duration of their use, where they were going from and to, and we can map all of these things.”

Toyota supplied a total of 70 colourful three wheeled i-Roads and four wheel COMS EVs operating its Ha:Mo (harmonious mobility) system to manage the scheme day-to-day, following a model that was already trialled in Toyota City.

But now the carmaker expects the system to be applied to more than just EVs. Van der Burgh said: “I would say we at Toyota are at the experimental stage and you will see us progressively test in certain cities different mobility models, different approaches to, if you like, sharing-opportunities. We do see hybrid as being part of this because you do not need the charging requirements of the EV to handle a longer range.”

He also said the carmaker has made a major shift in boosting its customer engagement to reflect the increased importance of the digital world on consumers.

“The retailing changes in the digital era with customers researching cars in a completely different way,” explained Van der Burgh. “The way they want to experience cars, too, is changing maybe from ownership to sharing in terms of what interests them and how they approach these solutions.

“We’ve introduced a Consumer One division within Toyota GB where we really feel it’s fundamental to look at our future around the customer. Not just base our structure in the ways we have done in the past but to really understand what that customer journey is going to look like and how do we best shape out industry and our business to match that.

“[The division] is a board member position and it will be a catalyst for what we do as an organisation, an accelerator to put that new customer journey into our approach. I believe this will help us and the consumer on the service side and to deliver the sort of experiences that they are looking for.” 

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