Auto branding will be vital in a non-ownership mobility future, Nissan Europe’s Warwick Daly told Paul Myles.

There was a time when many traditionalists attending motor shows would shy away from challenging new concepts and retreat back to the safety of ogling the latest monster V8.

Not so now, if the 2018 edition of the Geneva Motor Show is anything to go by where driverless concepts and electric vehicles took up far more floor space than before.

Yet, with all these brands vying for spotlight presence, it is not clear how the bonnet badge will retain any meaning in an expected urban environment future dominated by share-ownership, rental and ride-hailing mobility solutions.

So at this year’s Swiss show TU-Automotive put the question of brand relevance to Warwick Daly manager of advanced product planning for Nissan Europe. He said: “Today, brands are very high in terms of customer decision, there’s the emotional connection they have to a brand, it’s an expression of the design they may like and so on. You see, today, one thing that everyone is after is loyalty – customer loyalty to ensure people stay with the brand. This is about the ownership experience of the vehicle itself, about the quality and getting that foundation right.”

Far from expecting this emotional tie with a brand to disappear amid the myriad of mobility solutions the future transport network could offer, Daly believes it will retain a vital role. He explained: “Into the future, for me, brand in terms of its importance does not change because the customer will still be after that emotional attachment to a vehicle even, I believe, in the shared ownership or ride-hailing model.

“There will always be a segment of the market that will, say, look for what’s cheaper because they don’t care how they get from A-to-B. Yet, there will also be those who say ‘I may need to get somewhere but I’m not going to go in a certain brand’ because they have been brought up with another brand that they prefer.”

Daly believes that while we are heading into an exciting era of change in the auto industry and the role it will play in people’s lives, he also sees some core functions will remain intact. He said: “If you look into the future of transport models, we all know there is going to be a lot of change. However, in essence, what doesn’t change is that you have to develop a product that the customer needs.

“The core of the focus from a product perspective when planning is how to shift from a traditional owner set in terms of the needs of a small car, family car and so on, to when that customer wants to evolve into a shared ownership, ride-hailing and so on.

“That said, we still see a very strong future for pure ownership of vehicles, that will remain very much part of the industry but there will be a shift and we’re already seeing that today. Here we have to consider how does the customer’s needs evolve and how does the vehicle evolve to them? Is it a dedicated vehicle or is it about understanding how an existing vehicle can adjust in terms of its requirement such as more headroom in the rear, more boot space or better access into the rear for a ride-hailing role?”

Daly thinks the car’s role will still have to accommodate the life-style decisions of owners not matter what mobility solution is on offer. “When you look at car-sharing and shared ownership, customers still have that core need such as today I need to go into the city, so I need a small car. So the need for a small car is not so much of a change from what’s on offer now but the real change is, say, on the weekend when I need to go long distance with people so I will need to go into a larger crossover type of vehicle. So, this need creates more choice for the customer in a shared-ownership model. We are looking at this in terms of how our current portfolio needs to evolve to meet these needs in the future. Also, it has to consider is there anything dedicated to this role that we do not have today?”

Carmakers are also likely to enter their brands into ride-hailing services not least to maintain an emotional bond between themselves and their customers. Daly added: “Because transport solutions are fracturing into different areas, yes, you will see some brands running their own dedicated services and also see the fragmentation of other businesses where they will look for partnerships to collaborate with their brand. Just use rental companies today as an example, it’s a service where you pick the mobility solution that you want choosing one brand or another within a set field of your need.

“Choosing the brand in this decision will also be about what that brand is doing in other areas in the market place.”

[Mob.Myles.2018.03.06]

Connected & Autonomous Vehicles

14 May 2018 - 17 May 2018, Santa Clara, USA

From vehicle electrification and infrastructure to the evolution of ADAS and vehicle automation to enhanced connectivity and new mobility models, no rock will be left unturned.