What are automakers and dealerships alike supposed to do when people stop buying cars?
While there was a time when this question would easily be shrugged off as nothing more than a load of nonsense, today's automotive marketplace continues to flirt with the topic with greater frequency. In fact, China's three largest tech firms (once outsiders to the world of automotive), are following in the footsteps of other industry interlopers and betting big on this question to serve as the defining feature in tomorrow's transportation landscape.
As Trefor Moss and Liza Lin of The Wall Street Journal report, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent - collectively known as the "BATs" of the Chinese tech industry - all have their eyes set on servicing future car buyers via subscription-based "mobile living spaces." In other words, these former automotive outsiders intend to not only supplant China's traditional automakers entirely and craft a new bond with consumers that skips the vehicle ownership process, but to also reimagine the driving experience entirely via autonomous systems that take control out of the driver's hands.
In an effort to see these goals come to fruition, this trio of tech powerhouses has funneled millions of dollars into acquiring or partnering with ride-hailing services, electric-vehicle startups, online retailers, and even the software platforms needed to launch proprietary autonomous vehicle systems and online car selling services.
Given that the BATs have already elbowed their way into a variety of other industries, including social media, mobile payments, and most other facets of China's eCommerce infrastructure, the looming threat of these tech giants is probably not something that the automotive marketplace (on the national or international scale) can disregard nonchalantly - especially once you realize that this desire to replace traditional automakers extends well beyond China's borders.
Will Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent succeed in interjecting their technological goals into the automotive industry and completely reshape how customers fulfill their transportation needs? How does this approach parallel the work done by Google's Waymo and other American-based tech/automotive players? For more insight on this discussion, check out the full story from Moss and Lin on the other side of the link below.