These days, success in automotive is not just about building a good vehicle. Whilst the adage may still be true – if the product is good then it will sell itself – there are now many other aspects of the automotive industry that can no longer be ignored or passed off to a third-party.
The old way of operating, where OEMs would build a vehicle and then send it off to a dealer who would arrange with a finance provider about payment, puts substantial distance between the brand and the customer.
Often, the only point of contact between the customer and the brand would be if the customer decided to take their car to an official garage – which many people do not do.
In this blog post, we discuss some of the leading digitally native brands, much like Tesla, that are proving the outdated nature of the old automotive value chain. These companies are providing a bespoke customer experience by providing in-house support for services and repairs, regular hardware/software updates, exceptional customer service and a personalised sales experience.
So, these are 5 of the most exciting digitally native brands who are preparing to rip up the rulebook of automotive.
Nio is a Chinese EV manufacturer looking to compete with the best at a global scale. Labelled as the ‘Tesla Killer,’ Nio has skyrocketed in terms of share price and is now one of the most valuable car companies in the world, despite only manufacturing a small number of cars each year.
Nio’s success in the stock market, which should be seen as a prediction of their success rather than the proof of their success, is down to one key gamble. The EV manufacturer has committed to selling their battery-powered electric vehicles without a battery. This reduces the price of the vehicle by 25% as the battery is the most expensive part.
Rather than having their own batteries, users will be able to swap dead batteries for fresh ones in the Nio battery stations. With this format, Nio will be able to constantly recycle dead batteries and contribute even more to the green credentials of their brand. However, to achieve this, Nio will have to greatly expand their infrastructure and provide customers with a seamless, undiluted brand experience every day as they come face to face with the brand itself.
If they can do this, Nio will prove that they have the broader value chain of the EV market firmly in their sights. It is not simply about profit and share price but also about delivering to the market a vehicle that is efficient on energy creation, distribution, and recycling.
Geely is China’s biggest carmaker. Despite only being around for 22 years, it is a manufacturing giant with infrastructure rivalled only by Volkswagen. It is also the owner of many notable brands including Lotus and Volvo.
Being 22 years of age, founded in 1997, means Geely falls between the category of an OEM and a digitally native brand. They are neither here nor there. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, they have undergone rapid digital transformation in the last few years.
According to SAP, Geely are working hard to become a data-driven organisation that leverages data from across it’s global brands with the express aim of becoming a smart, agile and green manufacturer.
The company have also announced a premium EV brand, Zeekr, that will rival Tesla. The announcement came amid concerns in China about Tesla’s onboard cameras. Chinese officials have been banned from owning Tesla.
Of all the companies on this list, Canoo is perhaps the one that is breaking with tradition in the most startling of ways. The American company, based in Los Angeles, has designed a fleet featuring a minivan, a pickup, and a multi-purpose delivery vehicle.
The difference with Canoo is that their vehicles will not be available for lease or buy. Instead, they will be accessible via a monthly subscription service.
Inevitably, this subscription service will occur largely online and the young company, having only been founded in 2017, will leverage its digitally born background to deliver this new sales model to the market.
Next on this list is the Polestar range. Polestar is a subsidiary brand of Volvo, which in turn, is a subsidiary brand of Geely. Polestar are taking digital transformation to a new level with built in Android Automotive OS.
The car will feature built-in Google Maps, Assistant and Automotive Play Store where you can download popular, travel apps such as Spotify.
This is just the start of an approaching era of software-automotive cooperation and with Project Titan, Apple’s electric car project, becoming public knowledge, it seems the future of automotive is going to be a lot more interconnected, and futuristic.
Nikola is rivalling Tesla in all including name. The American company, based in Arizona, was founded in 2014 and has been presenting various zero-emission vehicle concepts since 2016. Nikola, unlike its rival Tesla, uses a hydrogen fuel cell car which many believe is faster to fuel, has a longer range, is lighter and has zero emissions.
Nikola offer a range of commercial products including the Nikola One and Nikola Two. These are class-8 hydrogen-electric trucks, the difference between the trucks is that the
Nikola Two features a sleeper cab.
The problem faced by Nikola is the current lack of hydrogen fuelling stations. Building fuelling infrastructure is vital to getting the business up and running but will require huge efforts and investment. However, with a digital strategy,
they may be able to get this infrastructure in place quicker than expected.
They have partnered with Norwegian hydrogen supplier Nel Asa to create a worldwide hydrogen fuelling network interlinked by Nikola digital infrastructure.
Vehicle to Grid
The EV space is filling up quickly and, whilst an “EV space race” between the largest of the Chinese and US EV brands rages on, there are exciting developments occurring at the edges of the ecosystem.
Nissan, national Grid as well as EDF Energy, are building the infrastructure that will be needed to maintain the grid when most cars require electric charging. The decentralised infrastructure, known as V2G, will act as a huge, decentralised power station and share energy among vehicles and the grid during peak times.
The EV space is swelling and expanding at an alarming rate and it is an exciting time to be both participant and spectator. Thanks for reading this post about the digitally native EV companies that are bringing the fight to Tesla. Stay tuned for more content.