Part 1.Eden or New Jerusalem: Politicians, the motor industry and the climate emergency

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Climate Emergency

Politicians, climate scientists and activists, certain that they have special knowledge about the world that demands urgent, focused attention, turn to increasingly loud, scary, and simplistic solutions to the task of transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy to avoid further global warming. While they seek to re-engineer society to force broad changes in consumption and production patterns in the name of such meaningless slogans as “climate emergency” or”net-zero by 2025″, qualified engineers and scientists are solving the tough questions that will allow the world to actually make the changes required. Behind the noise, there is a clash of philosophies. On the one hand, there are those who wish to return to an-earlier, simpler life. They would like to convince the world to embrace a journey to a new version of the ‘Garden of Eden’. The scientists, engineers and managers have a very different destination in mind – a New Jerusalem, where sophisticated technical solutions master the global warming challenge. This first post draws distinctions between the two views. The second looks at the progress that the technologists have made and asks whether the politicians and activists have even taken a look.

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The Motor Industry: Prescient, Prudent or Profligate?

The motor industry business model is based on three core elements: centralised large-scale centralized manufacturing allows the potential for scale economy. To key ingredients are ever growing markets, through adding global distribution, and ever growing volumes, by giving more cars for less. For manufacturers and dealers alike, margins on vehicles have become paper thin. Both make their money from after sales and finance products, rather than vehicles. In 2020, after almost 75 years of global growth, the industry is facing fundamental change: vehicles must become zero- carbon, from production through to disposal. and the the depletion of natural resources must be significantly reduced, if not sopped altogether. For the industry, it requires an entirely new business model based on three concepts: living within strict resource use and emissions limits backed up by regulations and penalties; transition towards electric vehicles as swiftly as the technology will allow; and, finally, new Key Performance Indicators that measure the costs from ‘cradle to grave’ of the vehicle. Only manufacturers and dealers who can make the transition quickly will be survivors.

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Car owning vs. car sharing: which will make a lasting impact on car dealer profitability?

Since the Millennium consultancies have been reporting that young, urbanites in the Triad markets (USA, China and the EU) have a growing appetite for car sharing solutions, such as ride hailing and car sharing. Those in the developing markets of China, India and south-east Asia are also less emotionally attached to car ownership. Adding into the mix the trend towards urbanization and concerns for global warming, it’s no surprise that some predict that these factors will lead to falling car sales and a squeeze on margins for car dealers. Zipcar claim that each car added to their fleet removes six cars from private ownership. What if the predictions are right? What if they’re wrong? Read on and find out.

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Emissions KPI’s: Which ones really count?

Like most business people, we’re familiar with key performance ratios such as production, sales and profit targets. But, when we’re told that our favourite calculations might be missing an important factor, we ask, “How can that be?” That’s where automotive production and distribution managers find themselves today. They measured production, sales and profits accurately, but not correctly. They missed one crucial item. They measured vehicle tailpipe emissions and watched them fall year on year. But, the calculation excluded the social costs of the vehicle’s contribution to air pollution and climate change, which have been evident for the last 50 years. Now, under the principle of ‘the polluter should pay”, vehicle manufacturers and distributors should expect some significant new policies,regulations and costs as governments try to clean up the environmental mess and avoid further damage. This post looks at what those policies and costs might be in the coming years for both vehicle makers and their distributors.

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Who gives a dime? The impact of Electric Vehicles on Jobs in Auto makers and retailers

As politicians and activists, auto-makers and early-adopters, embrace electric vehicles as the key transport development of the early 21st century, few are concerned about the impact on jobs. Automotive is one of the world’s largest industries with 8MN-10MN employed directly and another 20MN-25MN in support roles. The outlook for these stable, high quality jobs is at best uncertain. Up to 1MN jobs may be lost in manufacturing and another 13MN in support jobs. Does anyone give a dime?!

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Thinking the Unthinkable: Net Zero Emissions

Welcome the attention given to global warming or not, it ranks high on the world’s political agenda. But, political aspirations and policies are all predicated on the assumption that electric vehicles can be produced and deployed fast enough and in sufficient numbers to make a difference to global emissions. For the more radical activist’s timetable of ‘net zero’ emissions by 2025, aspirations are likely to be dashed. However, the direction of travel is clear and will have significant consequences for the automotive industry, its supply chain and consumers. This post considers dealer profitability.

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The ‘economics of the box’: prospects for the dealer business model

While there’s no immediate cause for alarm, the business conditions for car dealers – especially small independents – may get more difficult if new engine technologies and changing attitudes to car ownership become more widespread. The big consultancies and researchers expect electric car ownership to grow fast, if the technological, cost and infrastructure hurdles can be solved. If so, the immediate effect for car dealers will be a fall in after-sales revenue as electric cars substitute for conventional internal combustion engine ones. Electric cars generate around 25% of the service and parts revenue of conventional ones. Their expectation is that, by 2030, EV cars may become mainstream in cities and in some countries, such as China. Following closely on that forecast are two more. First, that urban dwellers may be willing to trade car ownership for mobility. Put simply, they continue the transition from ownership to leasing – which has already happened – and take the next step from leasing to on-demand mobility packages. Firms like Uber and Lyft are betting that change will happen, at least in cities and suburbs with high congestion and car ownership costs. So too are Peugeot, Renault, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. If that took place, the retail new car market would shrink even faster from the 2030’s onward. Second, there’s the much vaunted arrival of autonomous driving cars. Most experts expect this is thirty years away at least but they are all convinced that personal car ownership will cease to be mainstream if it does occur. The future for traditional car dealers who think that existing franchise protection laws and manufacturer’s investments in dealer networks will act as a bulwark to change and do not consider and assess these trends will not be bright.

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Oil Prices and Car Dealers:”Peak Oil Demand”

If oil prices stay low, expect a clash between government’s emission and environment aspirations and car users financial self-interest. Low fuel prices make switching to alternative fuelled vehicles less likely. So, the subsidy costs are likely to be higher and last longer. But that is unlikely to deter policy makers . They see larger prizes: opportunities to re-shape global car production and grab a larger slice of profits for the future and to reduce the capital flow to the oil-producers. Electric cars is the game changer of the 21st century.

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