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Is the Entire Car Industry Really Doomed? – The Drive

So auto retailing will be OK for the next 10, maybe 15 years as the auto companies make autonomous vehicles that still carry the manufacturer’s brand and are still on the highway.

Totally agree, but replace 10-15 with 30-50.

But dealerships are ultimately doomed.

YES, as we know them.

And I think Automotive News is doomed. Car and Driver is done; Road Track is done. They are all facing a finite future. They’ll be replaced by a magazine called Battery and Module read by the big fleets.

Half true. Automotive News will become Battery Module. Car and Driver will survive because there will always be an enthusiast market — albeit smaller — and they’ve made some decent attempts to address autonomous tech in recent issues. Road Track? Motor Trend? Dead. Upstart brands like Petrolicious will survive because they’re already focused on the best of the past, and need only expand their definition of classics year by year. Petrolicious may have to split into pre and post 2000 classics, but I think most of the cars sold between 2000 and Lutz’s tipping point will be unserviceable — the dark ages of electronics and all — but that’s another story.

The era of the human-driven automobile, its repair facilities, its dealerships, the media surrounding it — all will be gone in 20 years.

Fifty. And we’ll still need repair facilities. But they’ll be for modular replacements, and will most likely come from new companies whose infrastructure is radically different from current dealer models, who have no path to survival short of investing in automation and cheaper real estate in the next five years. As I said, Auto Nation will survive. (FYI, I have no stake in AutoNation.)

Today’s automakers?
The companies that can move downstream and get into value creation will do OK. But unless they develop superior technical capability, the manufacturers of the modules, the handset providers, if you will, will have their specifications set by the big transportation companies.

Mostly yes.

The fleets will say, “We want a module of a certain length, a certain weight and a certain range.”

Uh huh.

They will prescribe the mileage and the acceleration and take bids.

Transportation markets will be huge. So will traffic markets.

Automakers, if they are smart, may be able to adapt. General Motors sees the handwriting on the wall. It has created Maven and has bought into Cruise Automation and Lyft.

We’ll see. #SelfDrivingTheater is the new security theater. There’s no real evidence GM is any smarter than Daimler, Ford or Toyota, all big players who’ve also invested fortunes as a hedge against Lutz’s argument. Still, all of them blew it relative to Waymo, who just removed the safety engineers from the driver’s seats in their Phoenix deployment.

[GM] doesn’t want to be the handset provider. It wants to be the company that creates the value and captures the value, and it is making the right moves to be around when the transition occurs. I think probably everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it. They know they will be OK for a few years if they keep providing superior technology, superior design and have good software for autonomous driving.

Everyone wants to be that company, and no one sees a clear path forward. At this point it’s unclear whether Uber or even Lyft will survive as independent companies. If and when one or both are acquired, a buyer that can combine manufacturing with a TNC platform is guaranteed to become dominant under their legacy brand, which upends Lutz’s argument.

So for a while, the autonomous thing will be captured by the automobile companies. But then it’s going to flip, and the value will be captured by the big fleets.

Again, unless the fleet companies are acquired by manufacturers.

This transition will be largely complete in 20 years.

Not without mandates. This might work in fairly homogenous, socialist states where local culture aligns with broader goals, say, Norway or Sweden. American red states? Guns are the only thing people take more seriously. In this country, the suggestion that people won’t fight to retain control — and by that I mean ownership — is absurd. Lutz’s prediction requires a tough political slog. Anyone pushing to mandate self-driving cars will see the left and right subdivide, coalesce and unite around the concept of ownership of motion, which conflicts with utopian visions of “mobility”, which is no better than code for turning transportation into health insurance.

In America, that’s not a good thing.

I won’t be around to say, “I told you so,” though if I do make it to 105, I could no longer drive anyway because driving will be banned. So my timing once again is impeccable.

Actually, Lutz will be around to see some of this happen. Just not here in the United States.

In the meantime, I can’t wait for a future aftermarket shop to do a restomod of a Gen 1 Dodge Viper, but add the awesome parallel/augmented driving tech I predict will set back Lutz’s timeline by decades, and make driving great again. Those Vipers were awesome, clunky and dangerous. God bless them all, and Lutz, and whomever can build an uncrashable Viper before he dies.

“On a long enough timeline,” according to Fight Club, “the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.”

Now change “everyone” to “everything”.

By that standard, Lutz is right and wrong, by half. As in half a century.

Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, author of The Driver and Founder of Noho Sound, has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler  Semi-Autonomous Classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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