Opinion: Goodbye car makers, hello mobility solutions providers

Toyota compact BEV - front

Social pressures, the rising cost of development and the rapid pace of the industry are all factors influencing the shift towards shared mobility

Car companies are dead, long live the mobility companies!

At least that’s what they’re telling us. The implication is that old-school car makers have seen the way the world is turning, and are now ready and prepared to get you from where you are to where you want to go, whether you want to travel in a vehicle you own, one you are leasing, subscribing to or even renting by the hour – and, indeed, if you want to go by any means from bus to scooter, or anything in between. And all controlled online, of course.

So don’t, whatever you do, mistake them for old-fashioned, mass production car makers.

In general, where there’s a trend there’s a movement, so these claims are not to be dismissed lightly. Car making is complex enough without these added challenges, and the only reason to face into them is because they are perceived to be both inevitable and beyond their control. How we travel, and how we use cars is changing. Change, or die, seems to be the subtext.

So it is that this year’s Tokyo motor show is yet another reminder for those of us with a European leaning that the Japanese car makers have been talking about – and enacting – such ideas for far longer than most, and certainly longer than the German car makers talking about such concepts with heavy rhetoric at the recent Frankfurt motor show.

So while cynical eyes may roll at Toyota’s Tokyo show slogan of “Mobility For All” and raise an eyebrow at the fact there isn’t going to be a single car on its show stand, but rather a variety of mobility concepts, the wise head might also recall that these are themes that were running at the last show, two years ago, and being developed long before that. The planning has been long, and the momentum is now strong.

Toyota appears to be the most ready for the transition, its front foot being put firmly forward by charismatic company boss Akio Toyoda, having stepped up several gears when he announced the firm’s sponsorship of the 2020 Olympics and (most crucially) Paralympics a few years ago.

Messaging that sounded rather convenient in terms of its timing and purpose then now appears far-sighted; after all, if you can give mobility to people with disabilities, then your company’s capability to think big is clear and its purpose is immediately far deeper rooted. By the time the Games begin Toyota’s concepts of this year’s show, from its two-seat electric city vehicle to the more innovative i-Road and i-Walk, will be readying production. Odd looking they may be, but they underline Toyota’s shift into fundamentally new mobility solutions.

This is a movement that is about staying relevant, both in terms of meeting customer needs and emphasising, and deep rooting, the concept of mobility being at the heart of the modern world, no matter what the challenges that may bring, from environmental damage to stress from traffic jams. Certainly Toyoda and his team give the impression that this is a mission that matters to them far more than for making big headlines or big profits, and which is core to their survival, itself quite a big statement when you consider we’re talking about the world’s largest car maker today. To paraphrase, if they provide the answers they believe they will have a bright future.

As if car making wasn’t undergoing enough change, this is another fundamental reinvention that needs to be embraced.

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Source: Autocar Online

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