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COVID-19: The Fate of the Fearless

COVID-19: The Fate of the Fearless
by Roger C. Lanctot on 06-14-2020 at 7:00 am

COVID 19 The Fate of the Fearless

As I listened last Friday to Automotive News Publisher Jason Stein interview Scott Corwin, managing partner and “Future of Mobility” practice leader at Deloitte Consulting, regarding potential COVID-19 recovery scenarios for the mobility industry I realized that the vast analytical powers of Deloitte had met its match. Corwin had more qualifications on his insights than actual data and knowledge regarding what the future might hold.

The Deloitte scenarios – described as “passing storm,” “good company,” “sunrise in the East,” and “lone wolves” – are based on taking into account the potential depth and severity of the pandemic and the resulting government response. What the scenarios reflect is Deloitte’s ability to “tell a story.” What they lack is a reflection and quantification of events unfolding in real-time and their implications for consumer behavior and economic outcomes.

Automotive News: Where Does Mobility Go from Here? –

In its attempt to capture the “big picture,” Deloitte is missing the obvious reality confronting consumers and business owners every day for the past three months. To survive and compete today we must rely on our own wits and our own resources. We cannot count on the government – any government – and we can’t even rely on traditional customer behavior.

There are four intractable variables we have all been forced to confront: the pandemic itself, the nature of mobility demand, the behavior of auto makers, the priorities of governments and regulators. Students of viral pandemics will know that COVID-19 will be with us indefinitely. There will be no end to the pandemic. So it is best to proceed based on that assumption and take all appropriate measures.

For mobility operators, consumer decision-making will be unpredictable so it is probably best to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Service providers and employers should seek the lowest common denominator as to acceptable protocols for returning to a new business as usual.

For auto makers this will mean real-time daily factory worker testing to achieve reliable and scalable vehicle production. For dealers it means online vehicle sales with touchless dealer-delivery must be accelerated. It will take time to ramp up testing. It will take time to ramp up touchless vehicle sales and delivery – but this is the new normal.

As for government assistance, the best that can be hoped for is financial assistance. By now, it is clear, at least in the U.S., that the government will not step in to lead testing and tracing activities, nor will it provide specific worker protection guidelines with appropriate enforcement. It is every man, woman, and company for him or her or itself.

Strategy Analytics reached out to consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. to ask them about their car buying, transport usage, and ride hailing plans post-COVID-19. The survey was conducted in May.

The survey reflected some key shifts in transportation preferences with long- and short-term implications – some of which may appear obvious:

  • Usage of all mobility services will likely fall in COVID-19 recovery.
  • Owned car usage is likely to remain unchanged or increase.
  • For ride-hailing UX, air/surface cleaning and plastic partitions are of modest importance to most riders.
  • Driverless technology does not add great value to ride-hailing UX, even during a pandemic.
  • With regard to car shopping, most but not all remote activities and features are of interest.
  • Though remote inventory browsing and sales completion are broadly appealing, some advanced tech-driven walkthroughs are not of great interest.
  • Smart or clean surfaces are of greater value than removable or customizable cockpit barriers.

For me, the most important takeaways from the study was the importance of partitions in taxis and ride hailing circumstances. While the interest in partitions was expressed by exactly half of respondents, that level of interest ought to tip that COVID-19 compensation measure into a must-do category. Dealers should also note the survey’s flagging of remote service as a high customer priority.

As we come to grips with what COVID-19 has done to our lives and our livelihoods we must be as honest and open as possible. Experts have made clear that COVID-19 is not a single thing. COVID-19 is a mutating coronavirus that even before its mutation was impacting different people and different communities in different ways.

Even as I write these words researchers are working diligently to understand precisely what COVID-19 is and how it effects human organisms. They are doing this research with the knowledge that COVID-19 itself is constantly evolving – as is our reaction to it.

Most notable of all, though, is the emotional reaction of us human beings. No two people have the same understanding or the same response to COVID-19. This was made personally clear to me as I pondered visiting my mother on the occasion of her 94th birthday next Monday.

I am not alone in seeking to visit my mother and the logistics involved in this decision are complex. My mother has four children – including myself – with nine grandchildren, two great grandchildren, two daughters-in-law, one spouse of a grand-daughter, and four unmarried partners of grandchildren.

My mother’s birthday is on Monday, June 15th; she lives at an assisted living facility in Connecticut where the next phase of re-opening (including restaurants and retirement homes) occurs June 17th; my preferred lodging provider, Marriott, re-opens to the general public June 20th. One of my siblings does not believe the coronavirus is dangerous at all. One of my siblings thinks it’s a bad idea to fly to Connecticut and then proceed to visit with my mother. The feelings of grandchildren, spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends are most likely mixed.

My family is not unlike every other family in America – torn and tortured by COVID-19 decisions and societal and economic impacts. Mobility service providers, car makers,, and new car dealers will be best served by assuming: A) COVID-19 will never go away; B) every customer has deep COVID-19 concerns; C) governments are incapable of solving this crisis.

Under these circumstances it will be best to establish world class policies on cleaning, testing, and distancing in the hopes of returning to an operating environment – in vehicles, in factories, and in showrooms – that is acceptable to even the most fearful and worried among us. Only the lowest common denominator can get us through – which is why most of my family members will be joining my mother on her 94th birthday via Zoom. My mother has already become something of a medical miracle – but like all of us, she won’t outlast COVID-19. With a little care she can learn to live with it – like the rest of us.

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