The Future of Automotive Mobility
February 11, 2021

Pete Goldin

Global automotive markets are currently at a crossroads, according to The Future Of Automotive Mobility, the third edition Global Automotive Mobility Study from Arthur D. Little, based on a global survey of over 8,500 end customers in 13 countries.

Car Ownership

The report indicates there has been a dramatic change in both demand for cars and how ownership of them is perceived — while the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the protection and independence that a private car offers, a significant number of people are contemplating giving them up for environmental reasons and embracing alternative transport solutions

The report states: "COVID-19 has influenced people’s thinking about car ownership. Now, for instance, nearly half (48%) of all respondents globally think that owning a car is more important than it was before the pandemic. A probable result of the sense of security we get from being inside our own ‘socially distanced transport bubble’ rather than having to use public transport ... The expectation is that as the pandemic recedes, these numbers will fall back somewhat, though the perceived importance of car ownership overall will remain high."

Autonomous Vehicles

According to the report, in Europe 44-54% of people say they would not use fully autonomous vehicles, while in the US the figure is 49%. On the other hand, acceptance of autonomous driving technology has actually increased in China, with 71% of customers saying they are positive about it.

The report adds: "China aside, when only between 15% and 37% of licensed car drivers are in favor of fully autonomous driving technologies, it is obvious that manufacturers have some way to go to win the market round. Even when it comes to semi-autonomous driving (SAE level 4), over 50% of respondents in our survey were not convinced that this is the technology for them."

The report finds that fears over safety — something 51% of respondents were worried about — is a major hindrance. The report also cites concerns about personal data.

The report adds: "But despite such widespread concerns, paradoxically, 77% of respondents globally said that if autonomous cars were available they would use them. Is this another indication that our thinking about the car is beginning to change and that while the car is still important to us, actually physically driving it will become less so?"

Electric Vehicles

The study also shows that the move away from petrol and diesel fueled vehicles is real and growing stronger — asked about their next vehicle, 29% of survey respondents favored a hybrid product, while 12% were considering the move to pure electric. And if established brands don't provide an EV offering, many of their customers are ready to migrate to other manufacturers.

However, market growth is hampered by both limited model range and an immature charging infrastructure, with vehicle range still dictated by the availability of public charging points.

Mobility Services

The report shows that attitudes and behavior toward mobility services is changing.

The report states: "Over four in ten respondents (43%) said they might use a service like a robo-taxi, however, this was a considerably lower figure than in our last study."

However, the report also notes that the most significant impact on mobility services is likely to be lack of availability, something that 45% of survey respondents cited as an issue, as was the potential cost (42%).

The report continues: "At the moment, technical and infrastructure barriers remain a real impediment to the profitable implementation of these kinds of services, and that is likely to remain the case for the immediate future. Overcoming these challenges will be the catalyst for much wider and more rapid adoption."

Klaus Schmitz, co-author of the study and Partner in ADL’s Automotive and Manufacturing Practice, comments: “While the global automotive industry isn’t exactly in turmoil, the findings of this study definitely indicate significant turbulence, plus an uncertainty about the speed and direction of the market. Established trends are meeting new, emerging ones, which has inevitably led to a state of flux. We believe that the industry faces four main market-related challenges: how to better anticipate changes in vehicle demand and ownership profile; how to better transition towards electric; how to profitably grow the mobility services segment; and how to optimize the new value chain.”

Wolf-Dieter Hoppe, co-author of the study and Partner in ADL’s Automotive and Manufacturing Practice, adds: “Given the degree of uncertainty in the sector, the automotive industry needs to develop a better understanding of the modern driver’s priorities if it is to fully exploit electric’s potential and counter concerns over autonomous vehicles. This will require an evaluation of current investments and an informed calculation about how markets and the value chain will look in ten years. For those manufacturers who get this right, there will be significant opportunities.”