Poor Jackie. She had so much going for her. But as an individual who held onto traditional automotive values, she seems to have been left in the dust.
She considered car ownership to be a representation of freedom, but fast forward to the near future and the automotive industry has shifted to a shared driving experience rather than an individual one.
But is Jackie’s idea of automotive freedom really gone?
Last week’s post touched on Maven, a car-sharing app from GM that’s branded itself a “mobility service.” However, what interests Jackie is the GM mother brand itself as the supplier of tangible products rather than just services. In other words, the GM brand has split its automotive demographic into two groups: those who embrace the changing landscape and those who retain traditional values. Jackie’s a holdout for these traditional values, and so falls in this second category. Will other companies begin adopting this kind of model when they realize they have split fan bases, or can a single brand name hold sway over both tangible ownership and service?
It was mentioned last week that brand loyalty may shift with the advent of ride-sharing services. However, for this group of traditional users, brand loyalty might actually increase due to users associating this dearly held value of ownership with the very brand of the car itself. From here it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine the very existence of such users paving the way for a kind of revival of the retro. But wait, does this become a kind of I, Robot thing, now? Is Will Smith going to drag out his dusty old motorcycle that runs on – gasp – gasoline and give it a spin for its money?
Well, perhaps this line of thinking isn’t too far off.
Inspired by this very group of individuals, a return of the classic or the retro may be in order. In an age where autonomous transportation has become king and few have even operated a car, teenagers may hear stories from their grandparents and get curious. What must life had been like back then, with these “old-fashioned” machines you could control yourself and take anywhere you wanted? How must things have been when you had to remember your car keys, pump your own gas, and physically take your car to shop whenever it broke down?
A fascination with this way of life may excite a younger generation into learning about and even driving some of these now-antiques. The empty parking lots of yesteryear, if there are any still around, may once again see teenagers driving about, trying their best not to stall out. Parallel parking? How did their grandparents manage that? And drifting? Wasn’t that a made up thing from old Mario Kart games? Antique shows may begin catering to younger audiences, and motor clubs themselves may be revived in order to cater to this spectrum of interested attendees.
At the end of the day, what are the automotive companies to make of this revival? Most of their resources will likely be devoted to either car sharing or autonomous markets in order to adapt to the modern automotive landscape. A renewed interest in past models, however, is surely an opportunity. Cars of our modern era may very well be refurbished or emulated in the future: an antique from the past brought back to life. Such models could even be branded a Rebirth, a Revive, a Comeback.
Jackie may not be as out of luck as we first thought.
—Noah Rucker, Summer Intern