Category Archives: In Business

Why Volvo Is My New Favorite Automaker

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As I sit here owning a much-beloved VW Touareg and have great respect for all of Bavaria’s expertise in constructing some of the most fantastic cars of all time, this damn company in Scandinavia keeps peaking my interest. It all started the moment I saw the new XC90, and ever since, I’ve been closely following what this company is up to because although they may not have the pomp and fanfare of Tesla, Audi, and others, these sheepish Swedes certainly have a lot going on behind the curtain.

Reason 1: They’re arguably as far if not farther along the path towards an actual autonomous vehicle. By ‘actual’, I mean they actually have a realistic strategy for testing rather than just buying a vacant airstrip and congratulating themselves when the car doesn’t fly off the 20-lane-wide piece of concrete. They’re piloting the cars with actual families around Sweden, which will show Volvo how the cars might actually be used by normal people. Smart.

Reason 2: Their slim but potent product portfolio is the dream of any established automaker, or really even Tesla for that matter. They started with the XC90, the same car that went through an almost-unheard-of 2 full product cycles and still managed to keep sales up. (2 product cycles equals around 14 years of production. The XC90 went into production in 2001 and went virtually unchanged until 2015.) That’s called good design, and if the XC90 and S90 flagships are any indications, Volvo still has an uncanny knack for designing cars so brilliantly that they rarely need updating. Also, because the cars are so tailored to what their customers want, they don’t need to make a huge array of products to satisfy them. Subaru is the poster child for this, and also the poster child for how to make money selling cars for double digit profits.

Reason 3: They accomplished all of this under some of the most outrageous corporate leadership of all time. As alluded to in a previous post, Ford singlehandedly drove a number of brands to the brink of collapse, Volvo included. (Jaguar-Land Rover and Aston Martin are both still recovering.) In 2010, when Ford mercifully handed the abused company over to Geely (a Chinese auto company), Volvo was living on the fumes of the XC90 and their station wagons that had long gone out of style. In comes Hakan Samuelsson, a Scania and MAN truck industry exec, and a powerful team backed by a powerful Geely has become a force to be reckoned with.

Reason 4: Due to their familial ties to China, this positions Volvo for an extremely lucrative future. Few carmakers are having luck tapping into that market, for both cultural and political reasons. On the cultural side, wealthier Chinese are not as flamboyant as they once were. This is good news for the stealthy luxury of Volvos. Politically, being owned (at the moment) by a Chinese-based firm provides huge advantages in being able to operate and sell cars profitably in the heavily-regulated country.

Finally, the real reason I finally dedicated a personal ode to Volvo is that there have been clear signs pointing to an impending IPO in the near future. The company has issued preference shares to institutional investors, has issued quarterly reports for several quarters, and is currently seeking to raise additional capital. This is fantastic news for a well-run company ahead of the game in terms of technology and design, and well positioned to be the Subaru of the mid-to-upper end market for years to come.


De-Clawed Digital Disruptors: Why Samsung’s Acquisition of Harman is a Relief to Carmakers

This article comes on the heels of Samsung’s disclosure of its acquisition of Harman International Industries, referenced here.

The automotive OEMs’ business model, at its core, revolves around simply selling physical cars to people every 7-10 years, and hasn’t changed (or needed to change) since the car was originally invented. Enter the smartphone in the late 2000s, and within a few years the most important features on every car shopper’s must-have list involved some type of smartphone connectivity, which was about the time when carmakers started getting nervous. If what people care most about in a car (besides the basic standard that it moves when told to) is no longer what the carmaker controls or owns the development of, then theoretically it should be fairly simple for an Apple or Google to produce their own smartphone-centered cars, or at least reduce Ford and GM to simple low-margin hardware suppliers.

So why hasn’t the sky fallen on the OEMs yet?  If the latest move by Samsung, another one of the big smartphone players, offers any indication, there’s hope for them yet. Even within the last year, there were rumors swirling of Apple developing a secretive Titan connected car project that was to spell doom for the mainstays, while Google’s autonomous teletubby cars garnered tons of media buzz as they spun around the streets of Palo Alto. Today, however, Google has decided to pursue a more modest partnership strategy with its autonomous driving software, project Titan has been shuttered indefinitely, and now Samsung is entering the fray with a more-muted strategy in line with that of its digital brothers.

If you’re a Mary Barra or a Carlos Ghosn, this is at least a temporary sigh of relief. It’s another example of a so-called ‘digital disruptor’ finding it harder than anticipated to adapt its software/service business model to a hardware-heavy industry, opting instead for a less-risky, less-predatory entrance. It also confirms at least in the short-run that the creation of the automobile itself remains securely in automakers’ hands, while the connectivity and software aspects of the car will remain a hodgepodge effort of Detroit-Silicon Valley partnerships, internal development, and a plethora of tier 1 suppliers and startups.

At this point in the connected car race, both carmakers and external players find themselves sitting across from the same hairy dilemma: how do we leverage these new connectivity capabilities between the car and its surrounding devices to bring value to drivers? So far, they’ve come up with mainly three unsatisfying answers: car-sharing services, telematics/informatics services, and V2X (vehicle-to-something) communication. As all parties involved have found, not even a combination of these business models yields the fruit they had expected yet.

Perhaps the real meaty value of the connected car lies in its unique role as the central device that physically connects us to our world, much in the same way that our smartphones are the focal points of our digital lives.

Tesla and SolarCity Set Course for Common Energy Platform

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The Tesla and SolarCity merger is not just a smart business bundle of achieving one-time corporate synergies. It’s arguably the beginning of a future where regardless of how the energy is gathered or utilized, it can be shared.


This may seem obvious or like not a big deal, but when we start talking about the future of modular transportation where a group of “modules” (cars) together can power a train more efficiently and with less traffic, these cars need to be able to pool their energy repositories together to create one large pool for the train of cars to pull from.

Short side note: this is where fossil fuel vehicles hit a bigger roadblock than a herd of angry Greenpeace activists. Fossil fuels produce energy, but they have to be turned into electricity via combustion prior to being able to be shared. I can’t pour gas into my iPhone and expect it to work, ever again.

We take for granted all the things that we simply plug into the wall. This is how the future of transportation needs to work from the standpoint of universality of the energy being used, but we need to go a step further. Being able to charge your iPhone and iPad from your computer’s energy source is fantastically useful, but it doesn’t make the USE of that energy any more efficient – if anything it makes it less because my iPhone dies every fourth email whereas my computer can handle a few hundred before dying.

With transportation, though, there are real benefits from being able to allocate energy correctly, and only if the energy can be easily allocated in different ways can these tangible benefits materialize.

For example, say there are two 18-wheel trucks, one directly behind the other, driving on an interstate for several hundred miles. Both are carrying their own payloads, and both are using their own engine power to move their respective payloads across the country. However, the guy driving behind the first truck is expending much less energy than his friend in front because he doesn’t have to deal with as much headwind hitting the front of his truck. This is a fairly common occurrence among truckers, and it’s called drafting. The problem with drafting, is that someone is always having to take the brunt of the wind, while the others simply coast behind.

But what if there were a way in a line of interstate trucks for the trailing trucks to push energy from their engines forward to the trucks bearing the brunt of the headwind? Then you’d have the energy where it’s needed most and where the other trucks can simply coast along. It’s a similar thought process as a train on train tracks. Each car does not individually have its own power supply, but rather is attached to the power in the front.

Granted, trucks on a highway are not going to connect directly to reach other necessarily, but the value of having the front truck bear the brunt of the headwinds while everyone that’s trailing pushes some of their own energy forward makes everyone more efficient and channels energy directly to where it’s needed.
That same hallmark of directing energy where it’s most needed is apparent in the Tesla/SolarCity deal. The solar system stores the energy in the battery packs, which then can be used where it’s most needed. Whether that’s charging the person’s car to go somewhere or heating their home or profiting from selling the energy in excess back to the grid, the person’s energy ecosystem is allocating energy where it’s most needed and where it’s most efficient.

In developing a common energy platform where energy can be targeted to where it’s most needed and most efficient, the Tesla/SolarCity deal is way more than just good old fashioned corporate synergies.

New Car Dealerships Are Starting To Write Their Own History

The iconic American car dealership, with its glistening lots of new cars and flashy showroom halls on expensive real estate, is one of the few remaining relics of a pre-information era. The idea of a dealership originally came about as a way for unknowledgeable consumers to feel comfortable about purchasing such an expensive item – one they knew little about and relied on the reputation of the dealer to deliver a quality product. 

Dealers have made their living through being able to charge consumers a price without the buyer knowing if he was paying more than someone in another town; in other words, relying on information asymmetry. They also relied on their reputation as a dealer of quality products to retain customer loyalty and expand market share. TrueCar, AutoTrader, and the Internet in general has done a decent job at slashing nationwide pricing information asymmetry, leaving margins for dealers shrinking to a measly 2% in 2014 (NADA DATA 2014 Report). What’s more, consumers don’t associate reliability of a new car to a specific dealer, but rather to the manufacturer (used cars are a slightly different story, so I’ll stick to new cars for now.)

So what value do new car dealerships add to the automotive buyer’s purchasing process and overall product satisfaction? I’m not sure. And if the latest investments by CarMax and AutoNation, the nation’s two biggest dealer networks, are any indication, the dealers themselves can’t come up with an answer either. Which is why AutoNation specifically has invested over $300 million in a new online selling platform that boasts the fact that your time at the dealership will be limited to 30 minutes. Mike Jackson, AutoNation’s president, almost brags at the fact that this platform will solve the one part of the automotive customer life cycle that everyone collectively hates – the dealership experience. 

If the president of AutoNation sees that the best long-term solution to customers hating dealerships is to reduce the time customers spend at dealerships, then the obvious winner of this strategic plan is the dealer who eventually gets rid of the dealership experience altogether. Not a particularly phenomenal long-term plan.

If you think it a bit premature to call for the death of dealerships, that people still value “kicking the tires” and “looking the dealer straight in the eye and shaking his hand” and test driving 10 different cars before finding the perfect one, you either haven’t bought a car in the last 3-5 years and/or your generation’s letter comes before Y. Customers purchasing cars today do most of the research online before they show up to the dealership, and once there, they test drive an average of 1.6 cars before purchasing. Often, the car that customers test drive is not the eventual one they purchase, especially for special factory and pre-ordered cars, and manufacturers are including more all-inclusive maintenance warranties on new cars that ensure the car is quality.

To bring this seemingly far-fetched downfall of American dealerships a bit closer to home, consider Johan de Nysschen’s (head of Cadillac) latest move to convert 400 of the smallest Caddy dealerships into purely virtual showrooms that provide home test drives and delivery services while drawing inventory from existing regional distribution hubs. Customers will be able to conduct almost the entire purchase process online, from selection to purchase and financing, and then have their new car delivered to their home without leaving it.

Does the dealership of today potentially have any role in the car-buying process of tomorrow? Probably, and for the next 5-10 years, the dealership of today will probably remain unscathed. But as more selling moves online and the value that dealers used to provide to customers no longer is appreciated, there will eventually be many fewer dealers operating more as distribution centers than salesmen. The biggest players, like AutoNation and CarMax, will probably be the ones tapped to run these distribution centers, leaving the thousands of smaller dealers to pack up and head elsewhere. But at the margins that dealers are getting today, would being bought out be such a bad thing?

This article comes on the heels of the following article appearing in Automotive News:

Upping The Ante: Why Toyota’s Push for ‘Intelligent’ Over ‘Autonomous’ Cars Just Might Work

Last week, the New York Times’ John Markoff explored the new investment by Toyota in intelligent car research through partnerships with Stanford and MIT lab researchers. See the full story here.

My first blog post ever was written about how Toyota firmly believed in the driver having the final say in a car’s decisionmaking, a stark divergence from the autonomous crowd that started with Google and now Apple and has bandwaggoned even the most performance-leaning carmakers.

Toyota is thinking much differently, and as the world’s largest automaker, people should be taking notice when the frontrunner goes against the grain of the rest of the industry on such a pivotal area of the business. Toyota has a history of making bold decisions that end up confounding industry experts and other companies. The most prevalent being the Toyota Prius legacy that launched the hybrid drivetrain revolution by bringing eco-friendly cars within reach of the middle class. More recently, Toyota has rebuffed Apple and Google’s intrusion into the car by heavily investing in their own user interface and infotainment centers rather than concede defeat. And the next frontier they will do battle is in the autonomous car age.

How Mr. Marchionne Can Be So Right And Yet So Wrong about the State of the Auto Industry

I can only dream of being remotely close to the caliber of businessman and leader that Sergio Marchionne has been to FCA, but to me, I find his constant condemnation of the automotive industry’s state of affairs annoyingly obvious, and his solution more than a bit misdirected.

In short, Marchionne believes that there are too many companies producing too many similar-enough products for it to not make sense to consolidate, citing the industry’s poor average return on invested capital in relation to other industries.

“Consolidate!” he screams to anyone who will listen. The only way to achieve better margins is through combining more existing brands into conglomerates, like VW has done with their 13 brands. For each brand to have its own manufacturing and supply chain operation is wasteful and costly. Fair enough, and any business class would tell you that’s usually a safe bet in achieving better economies of scale and reducing manufacturing overhead and downtime. But we aren’t talking about what the class would tell you, we’re talking about an industry and a product that in many ways is as cultural and emotional as it is mechanical. And economies of scale and ROIC are merely two tools to assess an industry. Granted, they’re super important ones, but they still only tell a portion of the story.

Which brings me to my next point: people have agendas, and when you figure out why people are choosing to say the things they are, the picture is usually less opaque. Despite how right Marchionne is on the state of the industry, any business undergrad could have (and has) pointed out the same low ROIC of the industry as rationale for a lot of things, consolidation included. It’s not rocket science, and he’s not the first person to think something needs to change in the industry. Not to mention the similar industries also plagued by low ROIC – airlines and industrial equipment typically have lower returns on average than most carmakers.

While creating a splash in headlines, Marchionne’s intended audience is pretty much any carmaker willing to talk about consolidating with FCA, as well as any activist investor itching to get more out of their auto stock holdings. As background, Marchionne joined Fiat in the early 2000s, and returned Fiat to profitability while simultaneously completing the merger with Chrysler in the depths of the recession to emerge as a top ten global auto player. He’s technically a law graduate, but he’s a finance guy, and that’s the lens through which he views the industry. And he’s not done yet. He still sees his empire as not quite big enough (see Ferdinand Piech’s wiki page). To get to be bigger, he sees another mega-merger on the horizon. And time is running out – he gives up the CEO chair in 2018. Hence the immediacy in his tone.

“Why GM?” is the first question I will ask Marchionne if ever I get the chance. (Marchionne’s golden goose in his consolidation rant and search for a mega-merger partner is General Motors. He’s been courting them harder than a senior in high school who forgot that prom is tomorrow and there’s only one not-asked girl still available.) It doesn’t matter how many beautiful reports and facts you have about the gains and synergies that could be realized with the hypothetical merger of FCA and GM. God himself could bless the move and it still wouldn’t happen, for a reason more obvious than the blatant fact that the automotive industry has poor returns – GM is still healing from the last time someone thought it’d be a good idea to have a lot of brands under one roof.

While Mr. Marchionne was busy bailing out Chrysler, the U.S. government was busy bailing out GM. You know how GM got themselves back together again? They got rid of Pontiac and Oldsmobile and Hummer and Saab and Saturn. You know what Ford did? They sold Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and Volvo. When crisis hit, the answer was to split brands up, not pull them together, except in Chrysler’s special case. Yes, economies of scale go down in some instances, but often times they’re more than made up for with a focused product line free of beareaucratic conglomerates trying to “create synergies” and “share knowledge capital” across brands. And if you look at the success of GM’s slimmer portfolio as well as Jaguar-Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo compared with Chrysler’s performance under the FCA umbrella, it’s not a stretch of an assertion.

Mr. Marchionne’s second point in his consolidation pitch is his view that customers no longer care about what platform and engine is in their car, and he believes that cars could all be built on shared platforms and engines as a result of consolidating carmakers. No one in the industry would argue, and guess what: it already happens on a fairly regular basis.

But the problem for GM back in 2008 was that they were so obsessed with synergies and sharing parts between the brands that customers forgot what differentiated the brands at all. This isn’t a big issue when the economy is running full-steam, except when it isn’t. When the economy contracts, customers put their money with the brands and products that deliver the most value to them, and if you are caught with a host a homogeneous cars within undifferentiated brands that are trying to be everything to everyone, customers will take their business to someone who understands them better. GM learned that the hard way. VW does the conglomerate thing much better – they share platforms and tech but the brands are wholly distinct and follow an obvious pecking order. This works for them. But that is by no means saying they’re a case study for why FCAGM should exist or any other amalgamation of acronyms.

Final point: saying everyone should consolidate is painting the brush way too broadly. Are there some OEMs that could use it? Sure. Could others be hindered by it? Of course. VW has done well with 13 brands, but so has Toyota and Ford and Subaru, who combined have fewer brands than FCA, but sell way more cars at a better margin. Subaru is the poster child for customer targeting, and it’s worth mentioning that Subaru has the highest margins of all the automotive companies.

So yes, Mr. Marchionne is right that the automotive industry could be allocating capital and resources better, but consolidation is just one way to go, and plenty of carmakers have already tried and gotten burned by it. And let’s not forget that although FCA has done well since the recession, many other global players are performing much better, leaving many to wonder why they would want a less-than-stellar company to tie up with. Jeep and Dodge have basically kept FCA afloat due to their intense focus on the specific traits of their customers, Chrysler and Fiat and Alfa Romeo have barely moved anywhere, and the only reason Maserati is doing well is because they made a cheaper version. Let’s check the log(s) in FCA’s eye before we start talking about the stick in everyone else’s.

How Design Thinking Can Help Cars Become More Than Smartphones On Wheels

September’s Harvard Business Review focuses on the concept of design thinking and its application to how businesses function and strategize across a number of industries. This is my take on how carmakers can integrate this design mindset to create a product that goes beyond any other device. (See original article here)

My mom’s old car that was handed down to my sister is a 2002 Acura MDX, a staple mom-car that sold as many units as it could make through the early 2000s. It has a decent, somewhat fidgety navigation unit that is also a touchscreen climate control built into a nicely wood-trimmed center stack, and has Bose surround sound and heated folding mirrors.

As I approach car buying thirteen years later, I myself would love a car with those same features, and if properly disguised, that 2002 Acura MDX could look a heck of a lot like the new models you can buy today. There’s more functionality in today’s infotainment systems, of course, but the systems aren’t any better integrated into the total car experience than they were in 2002. If I were to take a 2015 infotainment console from a new MDX and put it in my mom’s 2002 one, people who didn’t know cars super well would have a hard time differentiating the new car from the old. Why? Because the tech that they’ve put in cars from before 2002 and into 2015 has been designed as a slap-on – an extra option that doesn’t really belong in the driving experience, but sits on top of it all like a superficial nice-to-have. It has no real “roots” in the car’s physical design and experience – the screens still look like they’ve been pasted to the dashboards as an after-thought, the user interface is as much a nightmare as it was in 2002, and once you locate the gadget that somehow controls it all, everyone’s reaction seems to be along the lines of “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” or “God this is taking forever,” and then they pull out their smartphone.

So why are the technologies from my mom’s ’02 MDX no better integrated than today’s ample technologies? Because automakers are so obsessed with keeping pace with the smartphone by cramming more features into the screens that they don’t see past the features themselves to creating a holistic car driving experience. Hence, the “smartphone on wheels” was born.

I think we can point at a number of factors behind the “smartphone on wheels” mania that has occurred, but it boils down to the automakers being absolutely petrified of Apple and Google, and for good reason. Customers today care about the tech (particularly smartphone) elements in the car equally if not more so than the technical, physical elements. But that’s only the beginning of the story – if automakers better integrated the digital experience to enhance and cater to a deeper physical experience, I’m willing to bet more people wouldn’t just care about being able to use apps from their smartphone.

The real magic that has made smartphones increasingly more valuable as time goes on are the apps that they run and the products they connect to that are powered by non-Apple/Google companies. This is why Apple/Google drool at the car – because there are huge possibilities for what the phone can do in a car, not unlike what a phone can do with smart appliances like thermostats.

So really what keeps OEMs up at night is the possibility of becoming just another app, just another appliance like a smart thermostat whose real value proposition is that it is controlled through the user’s coveted smartphone. If this were to be the case and all everyone cared about was the fact that the car connected with their iPhone, there would be fewer automakers producing cars for much less profit.

So carmakers need to decide whether they want to be the app company or they want to try their hand at beating Apple/Google. While Apple/Google are light years ahead of automakers when it comes to digital design and experience, carmakers excel at physical experiences. And the beauty of knowing how to create an awesome physical experience full of emotion is that integrating the digital experience can deepen and bring to life the physical experience of the car.

I tend to think carmakers can win the battle in creating a holistic experience designed to integrate both digital and technical features. But in order to do so, they have to stop playing by Apple/Google’s rules of cramming endless features into screens, stop trying to make a better smartphone on wheels where virtual and physical experiences are silo’d, and start focusing on how the design of the digital and physical user experiences together could make a car way cooler than anything Google’s little self-driving teletubbies could pull off.

The first step to this strategy is realizing that although the definition of what a car means to certain people has changed since the ’60s, cars still can and do evoke a range of vibrant emotions for the people inside, and, if done correctly, the digital component can enhance the physical and emotional feel and relationship we have with cars tenfold further than simply integrating smart phone capability. The car must be digitally and physically what people need it to be when they need it, meaning it should be able to transform seamlessly from soccer mom carpool car to personal assistance commuting pod to track-ready performance car in a matter of seconds.

One teaser example: you bought a normal car and got one with special features catered to racing and performance. You have a free bit of highway in front of you on a casual Saturday and the light is about ten seconds from turning green. You bring up the performance screen, which tells you that a combination of torque vectoring, a higher RPM rev rate, and a lower center of gravity will produce the optimal balance for you to leave everyone else at the line. You adjust different aspects of the car on-screen based on its recommendations and hit submit, and in a matter of seconds you feel the car growl a bit louder and sink a bit lower to the street as it sets its new stance (whew – I just got goosebumps thinking about it). You may very well say that the days of performance cars are over, but sales figures say differently. Just ask the people in charge of the Dodge Hellcat line or the Mercedes AMG line what their bonuses look like this year compared to their peers.

Second more mundane example: you’re late for a meeting, so the self-drive mode isn’t going to fly today because it’s too cautious and slow for right now. You’re trying to edit the final moments of a presentation while also driving like a lunatic. The car knows your route to work, and is suggesting lane changes to weave through traffic through your heads-up display, while asking if it’s ok to alert your teammates that your ETA is three minutes after the meeting starts so they might want to consider kicking it off without you. The car also notices that your eyes are on the road only about 6 of every ten seconds, so it becomes extra vigilant about detecting possible collisions, and when necessary, making a lane change or overriding your lead foot. You speed to the front of your office and find an open parking place and run inside without feeding the meter. You check your phone after the meeting and your car says that it detected you parked in a reserved space, so it moved around the corner and fed the meter. The only thing missing to this exchange was “I hope your meeting went well!”

Between these two scenarios, the first one makes you feel like a total bad ass, and now you and the car share this special “don’t tell your spouse” moment. In the second, the car is like any number of under-appreciated assistants on any number of TV shows and movies – you feel like you owe them something for all the sacrifices and help they’ve selflessly given you. Has your phone ever made your blood rush and feel like a bad ass or feel like you owed it something on an almost-human level?

Going back to my statement about seamlessly transforming to what a driver needs a car to be in “a matter of seconds” – that “matter of seconds” is in itself a cornerstone of what separates a car from a smartphone on wheels, and it only happens if the digital and technical aspects of the car are in complete harmony. Neither of the two situations elicit the same emotional feel without a thorough design strategy. In the first example, I never would’ve gotten goosebumps if I wouldn’t have felt the car sink into its haunches and snort as a result of my finger touching buttons on the screen. It makes you feel a bit on edge thinking about what you just unleashed under the hood. In the second example though, I want the car to know what’s happening without having to click an “I’m late please help” button. You never would’ve felt true empathy for the car had it not instantly known that you were late, known who your teammates were, known which route you always take, and instead of telling you to slow down like a pre-programmed system would, it gave you help like any co-pilot would and went one step further, a step that you wouldn’t have noticed until you came out and your car had been booted.

Does your smartphone need to be involved for these things to work? Probably for some things. But that’s not the point. The point is that the car owns the experience, and the phone is merely an aid, which is a different direction from where many automakers feel they’re headed – a car that’s just a smartphone with wheels.

A phone can tell you you’re going to be late, but it can’t physically help you be less late. A phone can recommend how to make your car perform better, but itself cannot move you from 0 to 60 faster. And a phone can tell you you’re parked illegally and then show you via a live camera feed the cop writing you a ticket, but it can’t do anything about avoiding the ticket. Car companies are great at creating beautiful physical experiences – the noises, the feel, the rhythm, even some of the self-driving tech is already applause-worthy. But in an age of technology inundation, carmakers need to realize and embrace the notion that tech isn’t superfluous or an add-on or bad.  With a cohesive design strategy based on integrating the virtual with the physical, a driver can forge a deeper emotional connection with the car – one based on a true relationship.