Technology Push -and- Market Pull
Jul 26, 2016
What became known as 'Dieselgate' is a remarkable example of a huge conglomerate getting caught 'cheating on their exams', therefore having to face the dire consequences. The American EPA is to collect billions from Volkswagen, whereas the EU (European Union) simply cannot, since it bears responsibility for the manipulated testing methods with which Volkswagen thought it was in the clear.
Volkswagen will have to pay $14.7 billion in retrofits, damages and fines for exceeding the NOx limits. That's in the U.S. VW diesel owners in the EU aren't entitled to any compensation. Worse, VW is allowed to continue selling the very same polluting diesel cars in the EU, that can no longer be sold in the U.S.
There are countless individual cases where vehicle makers and government authorities don't meet eye to eye. For instance, American car manufacturers rather purchase zero-emission credits from EV maker Tesla than 'clean up their act'. Besides emissions, CAFE goals (corporate average fuel economy) and safety regulations are also source of perpetual debate. One can only speculate what the consequences will be if NHTSA wishes to follow-up on its intention to introduce rear-impact crash testing to improve rear-passengers safety. The vehicle type that I happen to favor, deserves special mentioning. Manufacturers like Arcimoto, Polaris and Elio Motors are pitching hard, state by state in the U.S., to have their three-wheelers register as autocycles (the category of vehicles between four-wheeled automobiles and motorcycles), so they don't have to meet NCAP crash safety standards. The trade-off, of course, is that passenger safety and pedestrian safety (as these ‘autocycles’ feature protruding parts that can inflict needless harm to pedestrians and cyclists) are severely compromised. Doesn't have to be. As a matter of fact, complying with future guidelines and standards can form THE competitive edge.
To determine the potential of early-stage compliance, let's look at the familiar diagrams regarding Technology Push versus Market Pull. Sheer technology-pushed new products are relatively rare. Best example of the past decade is of course Apple's iPhone. It felt like it came from out of the blue - new technology, new looks, new possibilities... and a whole new market. Can't think of a similar example in the car industry, with such huge impact... Market pull is when a new product is being developed on the basis of (shifting) market demand, a competitor's product or customers’ preferences.
Silicon Valley realized that there’s so much more to “going from A to B” than selling cars. It cleared the way for new user and business models that pose a direct threat to the auto industry’s century-long hold over personal transportation. “If it doesn’t exist, make it happen”. Technology-driven in other words. Self-driving technology, car-sharing apps, incorporating transportation networking were all initiated in Silicon Valley. On the other hand, SV entrepreneurs have to deal with the social as well as regulatory acceptance - yes or no - of ride services (Uber) in different countries.
Is even able to create its own market with its own momentum. What Detroit and Silicon Valley don’t quite comprehend is that the present market for personal transportation isn’t some sort of uniform playing field receptive (or not) to new products. There are individual preferences and needs to cater to, sure. However, there are also shared or societal interests to consider - if not for increasingly aware consumers and customers, it is the government that makes us all aware of the consequences of the choices we make. Government and public have a shared interest in:
- reducing fuel consumption / boost fuel economy (after all, why pay more?)
- lowering emissions, which improves our living environment
- further improving traffic safety
- better use of our road infrastructure (rather maintain and improve, than expand)
- curbing global warming (although doubted by many, more and more people are convinced of the need to do so)
Ralph Panhuyzen. firstname.lastname@example.org
blog comments powered by Disqus