“Patience is a tumultuous virtue for the impatient!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
This post with a picture about skiing is actually about electric vehicles and charging infrastructure!
But first, to the skiing. It’s been a difficult year in Eastern North America – my home club finally saw the opening of ALL of our runs, the latest start in our season! Crazy weather patterns, an up-and-down weather cycle, volatile temperatures, snow to rain to snow – it’s been a wild season. Our full opening lasted but one day as the very next day in, a small side trail had to close due to warming temps. Through all this, I’ve been working hard to be really patient with this strange winter, but I was thinking the other day that patience really is a virtue in tumultuous times!
So it is with industries as industries shift and transform with a disruptive future – patience while waiting for an obvious future to happen is a tumultuous virtue. Take the automotive industry and the move to electric vehicle technology – the most difficult thing for any executive working within or around the industry today is to get the timing right; to understand when to invest in the shift; to know when the tipping point will come.
When it comes to the shift to electric vehicles, we know that change is inevitable, and companies are trying to judge when to get involved. I’ve come to believe that we will see massive momentum with the 2024 and 2025 model season as legacy companies finally begin to bring to market the result of their investments in the last few years. I also believe that it’s a slam dunk that just ten years from now, the vast majority of vehicles on the road will be electric.
But you have to have a lot of patience to play in this industry, whether you are an automotive company or a company operating within and around the industry. Patience. A tumultuous virtue!
Five years ago, I spent time with the Board of Directors and senior management team of an organization in the automotive parts/aftermarket industry. They have a lot of physical locations and the issue on the table was – should they begin thinking about building electric car infrastructure into those facilities to become a part of the future? The individual who brought me in to shake up their thinking knew that in the era of electric vehicles, they might not have much of a future selling parts and repairs -because electric vehicles involve few such parts and almost no repairs!
I was thinking about this the other day while looking at the slides from that session – I’m preparing for an event I have tomorrow. I came across this quote which was just a few slides in:
“It’s amazing: If you were an archeologist and you dug up a 1900 vintage car and you dug up a 2000 vintage car, you’d look at it, you’d say they have the same DNA, the same fundamental design DNA. Mechanically driven energy from oil, powered by combustion, controlled mechanically and hydraulically, driven by a person, operated pretty much independently. And what’s exciting right now is that we see a new DNA, a new design DNA for the automobile beginning to mature, electrically driven in addition to mechanically driven. Using diverse sources of energy, which can be in the form of electricity or hydrogen on board the vehicle as well as fossil fuels. Having the vehicle operate with electric motors. Very importantly, being able to control it digitally or electronically.
Future Car: Accelerating the Future
10 Nov 2014, IEEE Spectrum
During the session, I walked them through a variety of trends related to their industry and the industry around them, with a view to putting into perspective their future. Bottom line; we know that most cars in the future are going to be electric; they will require fewer repairs; there will be a lot of disappearing opportunities for companies in the legacy gasoline automotive service industry; there will be a lot of new opportunities for companies that repurpose their space!
Today, I keep watching carefully to see if they have made any moves forward to prepare for the electric future, and don’t see any signs that they have. I wonder if they are preparing quietly in the background – or, if they are waiting patiently to see how the timing of this future plays out. Just as I have been watching patiently in a tumulus winter to see how the winter might play out. The thing is – to deal with the future, you must often manage your patience while you are waiting for it to happen!
The future involves patience, but patience is often rewarded. In 20 years, we’re all going to look back at the car and truck industry and go, ‘Whoah! That was fast!‘ But while you are waiting, it doesn’t seem fast! Right now, we know that big bets are being made in the automotive space, and big bets will be lost. Business books will be written in the future as to who won, who lost, and which big bets they made along the way It’s an epic battle between car companies and tech companies. We are in the midst of a 100-year revolution.
And with that, we know that the trend will see a lot of stranded assets throughout the auto sector. What happens to all those lube/tire replacement/auto repair facilities? They’ll repurpose – if they are willing to make big bold bets – by taking the decision to invest, and by managing their patience as they wait for the future to unfold.
I commented on this a few weeks back, noting that Starbucks is busy reimagining the ‘gas station’ of the future, knowing that when ‘gas’ disappears and electric vehicles become predominant, the opportunity for reinvention of the ‘gas station’ is pretty profound. People will be spending 10-20 minutes for a battery top-up, and will likely spend that time buying coffee and pastries – talk about an opportunity to reinvent the idea of a filling station!
The future? It involves patience, as does skiing in the east these days.
When you know the certainty of a trend, there is always time to reinvent and reimagine and pursue new opportunities – with patience rewarded!