It’s an exciting time for the automotive world, with environmental challenges, changing physical infrastructure and shifting consumer behaviour combining to demand a major gear shift for industry players. Jeff Mannering, managing director of Audi Singapore, believes these changes have to be embraced. “In the future, how the car interacts with the environment and how it satisfies customer expectations with regards to mobility will be important,” he says. “Mobility will not just be driving from point A to point B. It will be an experience enjoying connectivity and time utilisation, adding value to the customer experience.”
What would you say are the greatest challenges ahead for the Singapore automobile industry?
Jeff Mannering The automobile market in Singapore is highly regulated. Industry players are subjected to the vehicle quota system as well as financing legislation, on top of responding to changes in the economy.
On a more macro level, we are in the most exciting period of the automobile industry. There is going to be more changes in the next 10 years than the past 100 years. Digitalisation, urbanisation and sustainability are major trends that will have an impact in the automotive industry. More will happen regarding the topics of autonomous driving, electrification and vehicle connectivity. The car as we know it will change.
How do you think the luxury cars of the future will be different?
Mannering Luxury cars will be differentiated not only by new technologies, but by how they complement the needs and lifestyle of the owners. This is not limited to the physical car but the entire luxury brand experience. A customer who purchases these luxury cars has certain expectations. Our role is to ensure that the expectations are not only met but exceeded. The services that go hand in hand with the car are vital to the overall experience. Safety, luxury, peace of mind, status, exhilaration and performance are just some of the attributes that customers desire.
A lot has been made of millennial consumers no longer viewing a car as an essential purchase. How do you think the function of the car will evolve in the future?
Mannering There is discussion about the preference for usage over ownership. In whatever form, mobility will be needed by everybody. Development in autonomous driving technologies will present a new dimension to the concept of using and owning a car. For example, when autonomous driving technology becomes a mass-produced reality, the car can become a true multi-use vehicle for people. Instead of being left in the office car park on a workday, the vehicle can drive on to serve another person’s needs. Mobility will become much more efficient than it is now. That’s just one possible scenario that we can look forward to embracing in the future.
This year, Singapore became the first country in the world to have on-demand driverless taxis. What are your thoughts on the feasibility of this technology moving forward?
Mannering As a car company, we are encouraged by Singapore’s willingness to explore this exciting subject. The pilot tests announced so far are very interesting and we look forward to more conversations and opportunities to encourage development.
How would you assess the likelihood of electric cars taking off in Singapore?
Mannering Electric vehicles account for less than one per cent of vehicle sales here. There is a lot of discussion on topics such as the source of electrical energy and the legislative framework needed before electric vehicles become a norm on the road. The technology behind electric vehicles will also need further development. We have already seen improvements in operating range and the cost of the technology is also coming down.
As a compact and urbanised city state, Singapore is the perfect place for electric cars to take off. There will be a need for substantial infrastructural change. This is not just about convenient access to charging stations, but also the total ownership cost. For electric vehicles to be successful here, there should be incentives for consumers to choose these cars over conventional ones.
Illustration: Yohei Yamaguchi; Images: 123rf.