Mobility investments in the next normal

Mobility significantly decreased in many regions as the COVID-19 pandemic spread in 2020. With industry stakeholders focused on keeping their businesses running, preserving margins, and protecting employees, it sometimes seemed as if the sector was at a standstill. After all, companies that were struggling to survive would likely gain little by investing in innovative technologies or mobility services. And with car sales plummeting, few consumers appeared willing or able to purchase new vehicles.

This view of the mobility industry, however, fails to account for several important developments. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily slowed growth, the mobility sector is undergoing a profound transformation and opening new opportunities for players that are willing to invest in vehicle electrification, autonomous driving, and other revolutionary products and services. What’s more, our recent consumer survey of around 7,000 respondents worldwide, conducted in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, has highlighted several trends that make it imperative for mobility players to act now if they want to emerge stronger in the next normal.1 Here’s what we found.


Positive consumer sentiment could boost the mobility industry

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for both automotive manufacturing and sales, OEMs could benefit from favorable consumer sentiment.

Automotive consumers now view original-equipment manufacturers more favorably than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has increased interest in low-emissions transportation

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have increased consumer awareness about the negative effects of travel, including congested roads and heavy emissions. Annual global passenger plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales hit three million in 2020—a more than 40 percent year-on-year increase—with 46 percent of fiscal-year sales coming from Europe, 39 percent from China, and 12 percent from North America.2

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumer interest in battery electric vehicles and partial-hybrid electric vehicles.
A majority of consumers believe that electric vehicles should handle long-haul trucking and intracity delivery; many are willing to pay a premium for the shift.
Many potential electric-vehicle buyers valued low-emissions manufacturing and end-of-vehicle-life recycling.
Many potential electric-vehicle buyers were interested in the use of sustainable materials and local manufacturing.

COVID-19 has increased interest in autonomous driving, but many barriers remain

Our survey showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers more likely to use delivery services, via traditional methods and autonomous technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated consumers’ interest in autonomous-vehicle delivery.
Most people cannot differentiate between advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.
The major factors preventing the adoption of autonomous vehicles include lack of trust in the technology and safety concerns.

Mobility has decreased during the pandemic, but our survey indicates that consumer interest in autonomous driving and vehicle electrification has accelerated. Players along the mobility chain who want to thrive in the next normal should consider pivoting their investments to these areas while simultaneously educating consumers about their benefits. Such educational efforts will be particularly important for AVs, since public trust remains low and many people are still reluctant to use these vehicles. In addition, the greater openness of consumers toward autonomous-delivery solutions could make them more familiar with AV technology, potentially opening more opportunities.

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