Flying car

To some, it is a means to an end, a business tool or just an inanimate object that contributes heavily to global and environmental pollution.

To others, it is a thing of beauty, a complete sensory experience; loud, fast and often expensive – something to be cherished, admired, loved even. Sheer perfection – for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

To some a thing of beauty, to others a gas guzzling polluter

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled across the opening gambit for some sort of car review; let me explain.

The industry is fundamentally shifting, not exactly new news, but interestingly, it’s human attitudes and emotions which have become particularly poignant when it comes to the car.

A number of different factors come into play here:

  1. Our requirements are changing; in some cases we are questioning the car’s validity;
  2. What (and even where) we’ll be allowed to drive in the future is open to debate;
  3. The role of the car in society is under much scrutiny;
  4. What we expect from a car is undergoing a seismic shift.

Head & Heart – An Intoxicating Mix

For most of us, after a house, a car purchase is likely to be the biggest single outlay we are ever likely to make and for many, probably the most critically considered, for a whole host of reasons – some logical, others more emotive.

However, what was once an almost unspoken rite of passage into adulthood, is now being questioned and challenged like never before.

A growing number of young people do not possess a driving licence, do not own a car and seemingly posses no burning ambitious to fulfil the aspirations of a generation past.

‘People are choosing access over ownership,’ says James Wallman, author of Stuffocation; which explores a trend among some audiences seeking a happier more rewarding life through experiences over possessions .‘Why have a car when you can use ZipCar or Uber?’ asks James.

Not ‘status’ enough for you?

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those that prefer a little more zip in their car, a non-possesion that’d still give the ‘Joneses’ a proper run for their money, and initiatives like ‘Porsche passport’ are proving just the ticket. Members of this elite club pay a monthly subscription potentially giving them (depending on their subscription) unlimited access to the entire Porsche fleet – is this the future of car ‘ownership’?  For some, Porsche would like to think so.

Porsche passport? That’ll do nicely

So, if attitudes to car ownership are radically shifting, so too must be our engagement with manufacturers. Surprisingly – and bucking a sharp downward decline from the previous year – Spring 2018 witnessed an overall increase in new car sales in the UK. Might this suggest that the inevitable march to driverless type vehicles is not as quick a step as some analysts are predicting.

Emotional Connection

Ultimately our path-to-purchase across most sectors has moved on, the engagement we seek, certainly across the physical parts of the journey, has evolved.

And in today’s world, where make, class and model are arguably getting harder to differentiate, maybe the most important point of influence in car sales is no longer necessarily the strength of the brand or product, but instead the facilitation of the human interaction in the overall experience.

If we fall in love with the experience, there’s more chance that we’ll fall in love with the product right?

Traditional dealerships are evolving in response – the SEAT flagship concept at Westfield London is a case in point.

SEAT Westfield London global retail store

High tech and a Mediterranean vibe – an intoxicating mix at Seat Westfield London

The eclectic mix of high tech and Mediterranean style work together to create a different vibe which is attracting an altogether new audience to the brand. No more the assisted sell, this is all about self discovery at your own pace.

Connecting not only at a product level but critically, SEAT are creating brand affinity through emotional connection.

And it is that which characterises our relationship with our car.

What does all this mean?

Well, in the main, it means the future for the automobile industry is a complex mix of competing priorities all of which will have a profound influence on society and the way in which we live.

But above all, that human connection has never been more critical.

1. In an age where experiences matter most, a new car can be one of the most thrilling experiences of our lives, elevating our senses like nothing else;

2. All the while, consumer attitudes are being influenced; a more socially aware generation is taking a fresh look at the automotive industry;

3. The new age of self discovery is radically changing the way we wish to engage.

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