It is a common theme at any conference to discuss the future. What is the industry going to look like in the next year, five years, ten, twenty years from now. And UCW this year was no exception. The Automotive industry could very well be at a precipice. One of the speakers sparked a lot of debate and certainly got a lot of people thinking in new ways. Thomas Frey, a futurist with the Davinci Institute, gave a very compelling, albeit controversial, keynote address on the final day of the conference. At the center of his address was the question “What does the seemingly inevitable coming of the autonomous car era mean for the auto industry?”
We can see the beginning of self driving vehicles already on our roads. Self braking cars, adaptive cruise control, and parking assist are just a few of the self driving features that come standard on many of the new cars today. So what happens when there is no longer need for a driver at all? We see a growing need for cars on demand as well with companies like Uber and Lyft providing transportation anywhere, anytime. If we expand out on that and combine driverless vehicles with transportation on demand, will we even need to own a car? This will undoubtedly change the industry and in some instances eliminate some altogether. Frey predicts that there are some 128 job titles that will disappear if this future becomes our reality including auto sales – new and used, account managers, auto auctions, credit managers, and loan underwriters to name just a few. A sobering thought considering those are the very jobs that make up the audience at Used Car Week.
I am not a futurist like Thomas Frey and will defer any expertise and predictive modeling to him and other experts. Even if that future does not unfold like that (there are a lot of people in the banking, oil, judicial et al. who make a lot of money the way the current system works and will not relinquish control without a fight) regardless of the business you’re in, you can’t rest on your laurels or continue to do business the same way because ‘that’s the way we have always done it.’ For many of us the future is already here and our planning and thinking today can shape what we become.