“Changes are not a threat, but an opportunity”

To kick off the “Mobility of Tomorrow” initiative, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, presented his vision for a mobile future.

Digitalization, new mobility services, or the development of new drive systems: the automotive industry is undergoing a profound transformation worldwide. How will people get from A to B in the future? What innovations can the industry use to meet current and future challenges? The “Mobility of Tomorrow” initiative intends to find answers to these and other questions from the perspective of manufacturers and suppliers in Germany.

“With this initiative, we want to shed light on issues of the future, but also on the controversies surrounding them. We know that we have to win back confidence.” With this honest statement, Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), welcomed about 50 invited guests to the launch event on the October 6th in Berlin.

In his subsequent keynote speech, Dr. Dieter Zetsche succinctly described the current turmoil in the German automotive industry: “The initiative is important because the German automobile industry will change more in the next ten years than it has in the last 100 years”.

The change from products to platforms

Zetsche gave tangible insights into his vision of mobility in the future, in which the automobile will be fundamentally transformed from a product to, ultimately, a platform. This is based on four pillars: connectivity (i.e. the comprehensive networking of vehicles), autonomous driving, electric mobility, and shared mobility. “Each of these fields has the potential to radically change the industry. We will only unleash their full potential after interconnecting them.” Precisely this is the core of the new corporate strategy. These changes are not seen as a threat but as an opportunity, including for the employees of the industry and their expertise. “We are developing a new corporate culture from the bottom up that will ensure our future sustainability.”

Source: VDA

Source: VDA

Investment in minds and hardware

During his conversation with Holger Appel, chief editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper’s Technology and Automotive section, Zetsche used examples and figures to make it clear where Daimler currently stands on the road to the mobility of the future and where it is heading. The company will therefore invest half a billion euros in networked systems by 2020, and one billion euros into expanding its own battery production. He assumes that in 2025, up to a quarter of newly registered vehicles will have an electric drive. Starting in 2020, Daimler also wants to offer customers the first highly automated vehicles.

In the subsequent discussion with guests, it became evident what steps would be required for the mobility of the future, both from the automotive industry and the government. For example, Zetsche stated that, in order to win customers over, electric vehicles would simply have to become more attractive in the future, namely with more competitive prices and ranges. Significant changes lie ahead for the companies as well. “We have to speed up our pace of innovation,” he said with regard to the potential competition coming from agile tech companies in Silicon Valley. “For this we need massive investments in the digital infrastructure: in minds and hardware.” The government must also create the necessary framework conditions for the development and expansion of the charging infrastructure, for the liability issues of autonomous driving, and for sensitive vehicle data.

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