Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, speaks at TalkAuto 2022
Kids these days don’t care about a loping idle in a 1969 Camaro, a prominent automotive leader recently observed. And it’s this attitude that is part of the change in the relationship happening between consumers and vehicles.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, noted how his kids don’t care about cars the way he does — and it’s a signal as to how things are changing. Out of his three kids, only one got their driver’s licence at the age of 16. The family has cars but the kids don’t care to drive them. Instead, they gravitate towards ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
But even with this shift, he said at TalkAuto, hosted by Canadian Black book in Woodbridge, Ontario, there will still be cars — people will need to get around. And there are positive signs for the aftermarket.
“Somebody’s going to buy the cars to drive us home,” Volpe said. “We’re not declining the number of kilometres we’re going to drive — we’re increasing them.”
What gets kids excited today? The technology inside new vehicles. They’re into electric vehicles — Volpe called the technology “table stakes.” He cited Project Arrow, the first zero-emission concept vehicle developed in Canada.
“They like the technology story. That 800 volts makes connectivity and autonomous drive real,” he said.
Volpe bought his daughter a 10-year-old car when she went to university. Her first question was to ask where the Apple CarPlay was (the car wasn’t equipped with the feature). That’s what kids care about more than the actual car itself.
“It’s the technology that’s going to drive those buying decisions and those relationships are going to absolutely change the business model,” Volpe said.
He threw cold water on the idea of getting to 100 per cent electrification by 2030. “But are we going to be connected-autonomous by 2040? Sure, why not? Technology’s there.”
The key, however, will be ensuring reliable connectivity. Remember the Rogers outage? That kind of interruption cannot happen.
“What are our backup plans?” Volpe asked. “We have to have reliable systems because if that happens in 2040 and we’re all in autonomous cars, what happens? Are they all going to pull over? They might. But people a lot smarter than me are figuring out vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure and for all those different issues that may happen.”
And as we move to autonomous, that means moving towards zero collisions. That changes the makeup of a vehicle. Safety sensors and other features are could be removed.
“Imagine we get there. They’re not going to hit. They’re not as heavy. They’re not shaped the same,” he observed.
Roadways could change, highway signage could change, pedestrian life could change — and so much more. “But it can’t unless we get it absolutely perfectly right,” he noted.