Change is happening. Rapidly. Adapt or die.
The car dealership model we're all familiar with is about to change, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra knows this all too well. Under her stewardship, GM has been heavily investing in electric vehicles, ride-sharing, self-driving technologies, and other mobility-related ventures. A lot of changes are taking place and GM's dealerships are concerned how this will affect their bottom line. Automotive News was at a Detroit media event earlier this week and, based on Barra's statements, these dealerships have no choice but to adjust.
In fact, Barra insists that customers and consumers must come first. "There isn't an industry right now that isn't being transformed or disrupted by technology," Barra stated. "The transformative technologies - electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles - provide an opportunity to grow, again, where it makes good business sense. If you look at where ride-sharing is the most popular, it's in dense, urban environments where we have low market share, so that's where we see it as additive," Barra said. I do think that we're going to be in the core business for a very, very long time, but we're going to continue to be led by the customer."
However, and despite Barra's best intentions regarding customers, her vision of future mobility may not come true. A couple of weeks ago, GM's retired vice president of product Bob Lutz, true car guy who's long career also involved time at BMW and Chrysler, predicted future car buyers won't be loyal to any particular car brand. Reason being is that we simply won't own cars on a mass scale. Ride-sharing is the main reason why. Combined with the fact that self-driving cars are also on their way, the so-called traditional brand hierarchy and retail model we have today won't exist, according to Lutz. He may be right. But so could Barra.
The future is impossible to fully predict, but Lutz believes major automakers, such as GM, will survive in the long term, whereas smaller brands simply won't or will consolidate. Whatever ends up happening, we're at the earliest of stages of a dramatically different way we buy, sell and ride in cars.