Volvo unveiled a new concept at AutoMobility LA to start a conversation about autombility, something Audi and BMW are on board with too.

By The future of not buying cars

Posted on December 5, 2018

Only a cruel person would point out that Volvo unveiling a motor-show stand without a single car to show at last month’s AutoMobility LA event might have been a stroke of genius, because no-one had to look at its unsightly vehicles, but obviously, that wasn’t the Swedish company’s thinking.

The vast, empty stand did look like some kind of protest-art installation, particularly with its giant, Ikea-like blonde-wood sculpture in the middle spelling out the unnecessary message ‘This Is Not A Car’, but the point Volvo was trying to make was that, these days, car companies are moving towards selling ‘mobility options’ rather than actual cars.

Or, as Volvo’s head of product strategy, Mårten Levenstam, put it: “We want to demonstrate that we got the memo, and start a conversation about the future of automobility. So instead of bringing a concept car, we talk about the concept of a car.”

As a result, the Volvo stand showed off tech tie-ups, like Amazon Key In-Car Delivery, in which packages are left in the boot of your vehicle while you’re at work, which is pitched as more convenient than home delivery, and a new OS that Volvo has co-developed with Google.

The really big sell for the future though, is something called Care by Volvo, which is a subscription service that allows customers to put the new car they want in their driveway for a flat monthly fee, with the possibility to upgrade – just as you would your phone – with ease. The bonus is never having to enter a car dealership and haggle with a human again.

Indeed, Volvo says more than half of the people who have taken up its subscription offer so far have done so using an app on their phones.

While Volvo gives you your choice of car for a year, other companies – like BMW and Audi – are offering subscription programs (not in Australia, yet, unfortunately) where for a monthly fee you have access to a range of vehicles. So you can have a BMW 4-Series for commuting during the week, and switch to a sporty SUV like the X6 M for the weekend.

Mercedes-Benz is also working on a global car-sharing program, and its vice president of marketing, Dr Jens Thiemer, says the future will look just as radical as a motor stand with no cars on it.

“The question we’re asking is, do we really want to sell cars in the future? Yes, but it’s going to be more about selling mobility, and understanding the next generation. We want to sell them future mobility services, not cars, and that’s a different business model.”