LIVE FROM CES ASIA, SHANGHAI: The transportation industry is undergoing fundamental changes requiring car makers to partner with technology companies to improve the user experience and make transport more efficient.
This was the view of Shi Xuesong, CEO of Banma Technologies, a startup joint venture between Alibaba Group and motor manufacturer SAIC.
Shi, speaking during a panel session on shifting transportation trends, said Banma Technologies’ platform can recommend a parking option with charging available for an electric vehicle and then reserve a spot.
His mission is to develop a common interface allowing users to access multiple mobility platforms using a single sign-in, such as an Alipay or Taobao ID. This will allow data to flow across different mobility systems, be it a rival platform or a bike sharing app, to enable services to be streamlined.
Joe Pattinson, BMW’s head of mobile services for China, acknowledged the auto maker needs to better utilise data gathered from its car-sharing service to improve the user experience by ensuring vehicles are in the right place at the right time, and reduce traffic congestion.
He said BMW is working closely with cities to improve efficiency and lower costs by expanding car and bike sharing services. It aims to improve the utilisation of cars and help reduce the number of empty buses on the streets.
Pattinson noted the motivation behind car sharing in China is very different from Europe, where the main reason is to save money. In China many people don’t have access to vehicles, but have drivers licences.
BMW launched its car-sharing service Reach Now in China at the end of 2016 with a pilot of 20 cars. It plans to follow up the initial trial with an expanded project of 100 cars in Chengdu in the coming months.
With Baidu offering a high-spec infotainment and navigation platform for the mass-market car segment, differentiating in the premium market in China is a major challenge.
Shi said brand is important, which he understands first hand as an owner of a number of premium brand cars. However, as more mobility options are introduced, he expects the value of the brands to be diluted.
Pattinson said brand will continue to be a major factor in decision making. “We see a premium market for sharing, with people willing to pay extra for added comfort and convenience, with a system that integrates seamlessly into their lives.”
He added regulations are changing due to environmental and congestion issues. While those changes may make justifying car ownership harder, they should encourage car sharing: “The sharing trend will have an impact, but we don’t see car sales dropping, because with sharing there is higher turnover of vehicles as each is used more regularly.”
Pattinson said BMW is making money on its sharing platform in Europe, noting it takes about three years to make a profit in a market: “It’s a numbers game and utilisation issue. We also attract new customers who… become potential buyers in the future.”