What will it take for car makers to boldly go where no car maker has gone before?

Automakers have a long voyage ahead as they aim to shift revenues from making large mobile hardware devices to providing personalized and interactive transportation services.

As they explore this strange new world, their success will hinge less on their ability to design and engineer better cars and more on their ability to establish superior direct connections with their end customers, folks like you and me.

Doing so will require them to boldly navigate a rapidly-evolving ecosystem of enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT sensors and the cloud to satisfy the preferences and shifting whims of today’s discerning drivers.

For those that can get ahead of the connected car curve by doing so, the future is bright – establishing closer relationships with customers leads to the kind of loyalty car makers dream of, the kind more conservative car makers will struggle to overcome.

But pushing the envelope always entails risk.

Like enterprises undertaking digital transformation in other industries, auto manufacturers will need to invest more heavily than they’re used to in the information technology piece of their operation. They’ll need to build out smart, software-savvy teams to integrate their traditionally static “systems of record” with the new event-driven “systems of operation” it takes to power connected car services.

Customer engagement is key

Speaking of the services themselves, auto manufacturers will need to learn how to engage with customers in new and interesting ways not via the cars they sell, but through smartphones, social media and more. I think the path of least resistance on this front is to leverage lessons learned in industries steeped in such practices, such as retail and banking.

Chief digital officers will become commonplace at the major automakers.

Security reigns supreme

Whether you’re talking about that integration of back-end assets or delivery of innovative services, the need for cybersecurity is paramount. Automakers will need to acquire and implement the technology and internal expertise it takes to ensure absolute security of customer data, information about the location and status of cars, and of course the ability to remotely control those vehicles.

Data is the new oil

Everybody knows information has become the ultimate asset in today’s business environment. It’s the most valuable resource in any digital transformation, and ownership of customer data will be hotly contested in the connected car marketplace where automakers work in concert with equipment manufacturers and providers of third-party services in areas such as in-car entertainment, navigation and more.

Automakers will need to assert their data ownership rights to monetize the data deluge from their connected cars.

It’s a strange new world for automakers, and I for one look forward to seeing them seize the opportunity.

Crispin Clarke
Crispin Clarke

Crispin Clarke was Solace's Senior Vice President, Europe.