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The Future of Mobility – A Q&A with Tony Whitehorn

 
 

Next Gen Insights | Tony Whitehorn |
12 November 2019

Following on from a very successful career in the automotive industry, where he held senior positions with Renault and Toyota and was President and CEO of Hyundai in the UK for 14 years, Tony Whitehorn has turned his focus to his passion for helping businesses succeed through collaboration, embracing change and empowering their people. During his tenure at Hyundai, Tony embraced the way that technology was reshaping society and his industry, and as a result, they disrupted the market by leveraging the success of retailers like Apple to set up dealerships inside of shopping malls, embracing online shopping trends and bringing car sales to the retail high street.

Today, as an Endava consultant, Tony is aligning his passion with Endava's to reimagine the way that the evolving relationship between people and technology will usher in the era of frictionless transportation and the impact that will have on peripheral industries like payments, insurance and telco. Together we will work to help companies who want to participate in the mobility as a service era to assess their readiness, navigate the necessary changes and start to build on their vision of this future.

We sat down with Tony ahead of the Financial Times Future of Mobility Summit in London, where over 200 senior executives are set to attend a full day of networking and knowledge-sharing designed to help decision-makers stay on track in a new era for transport, to ask him a couple of burning questions about his views on the future of mobility and where to get started today.

You’ll be taking to the stage on 26th November at the FT Future of Mobility summit – what are you most looking forward to discussing with your peers?

To be honest, I think I will feel like a bit of an imposter. I will be an automotive specialist amongst tech gurus, which is a bit like a throwing a rugby supporter in a room full of football fans! But that’s what I’m most looking forward to. The transport industry has remained very traditional and almost impervious to any new entrants in the sector for many years but, all of a sudden, technology has enabled new players to enter the space.

We are at a watershed in the automotive industry. Connectivity and the rise of IOT started to change the landscape and shift the power dramatically from the supplier to the customer. This means the democratisation of mobility which in turn further empowers consumers, who become more likely to engage with your brand and your products, thus creating a positive feedback loop. How can we capitalise on this opportunity? The coming together of a variety of disciplines means that new dimensions can be explored expanding the sector from transportation to mobility.

You were the AM (Automotive Management) inductee for 2019, an accolade that recognized your “transformative tenure” and your ability to meet new challenges head-on. Many leaders in the mobility space (be that automotive to delivery services) are facing new challenges.

What would be your advice to leaders to successfully manage a period of change?

Change is scary. Many people say “I welcome change”, but do they really mean it? Change means uncertainty and fear of the unknown. However, change will happen and in the automotive/transport/delivery sector it is happening at an exponential rate. We need to manage it via TRANSFORMATION not prevent it with PRESERVATION.

In 2014, we at Hyundai UK started selling new cars completely online. This was a global first for the entire motor industry. At the time many of the industry cohorts were antagonistic to this development. By the end of the next decade I would expect that the majority of new cars will be sold online. Companies need to look to be one step ahead by disrupting the existing norms and even look to disrupt themselves. It may be stressful, but it is necessary in today’s environment. Change requires sacrifice.

I realised that it was no good fighting the coming change, so I decided to embrace it. The best advice I was given in order to achieve this was to be flexible. This means having a plan but being prepared to change it. It means not being prescriptive but being directional. Large corporations are naturally prescriptive but smaller businesses are naturally dynamic and directional. These new entrants are agile, quick to market, focus on the consumer and see failure as a lesson not as a result. All leaders no matter the size of their organisation need to display these characteristics if they are going to succeed during this great upheaval in the mobility sector.

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is the latest buzz word gaining traction. How do you define MaaS and what do you think are the challenges (and opportunities!) for businesses?

Because of the rise of efficient connectivity, a variety of products, tools, technologies can now come together to enable customers and their goods to traverse the world faster and more efficiently. That is basically MaaS. MaaS is the ability to enable people/goods move seamlessly in a connected world.

Never before have we been in a position to access such tools and resources to help us achieve these heights. However, with such opportunities come challenges.

People’s behaviour will change, consumers now demand a more connected and immediate relationship with their service providers. This will mean that certain practices and procedures will become redundant or obsolete very quickly. Everyone in the space needs to be aware of this relationship shift and watch carefully to see how the consumers’ needs are changing and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, we will see some casualties as those who are slow to respond will fall by the wayside. Some business practices that are commonplace such as haggling in a showroom will no longer be relevant, as the user journey will become entirely transparent.

What are top 3 things that companies should be doing now to get ready for these opportunities and challenges?

First, accept these are unprecedented times. This is transportation’s Third Industrial Revolution. The first hailed the steam train, the second saw the advent of the motor car and this, the third, has introduced Mobility. We are entering a new era, don’t ignore it. It is an era that is defined by data and customer relations, rather than growth at all costs.

Secondly, watch for changes and respond. Don’t hark back to the good old days. You will not be doing what you do today in 5 years’ time. Never before has the industry been able to find out exactly what the end customer thinks of their products, any time of the day, anywhere in the world. This connectivity gives new data points that the industry didn’t even know existed.

Finally, ensure your company focuses on its core competencies. This is not to say don’t try new things, but understand your limitations and outsource your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths.

KPMG predict that “future mobility will be transformed by technological innovation” – what’s your take on this and how does a business go about tackling this technological innovation?

The automotive industry is being challenged by C.A.S.E (Connectivity, Autonomy, Sharing and Electrification), which are all happening simultaneously. It is placing great costs on the industry as the investment to update legacy systems can be more than the company can bear. Many OEMs are having to amalgamate resources (e.g PSA and Fiat) to secure economies of scale and justify the significant technological investment required.

Other companies are having to look to partner with specialist providers outside of their traditional industry to ensure they are realising advancements in C.A.S.E. I left my senior role with a global OEM because I saw opportunities to use my automotive expertise with companies who have significant experience in other fields. I am excited to be working with Endava because of the diverse experience they bring in other areas of technology (e.g payments) which they can use to develop new business models in the mobility sector that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

For incumbents in the industry, how do they survive in this constantly changing environment?

Incumbents have largely been built on legacy systems which, compounded with legacy mindsets, create an environment that isn’t suitable for an on-demand society. In order for companies to survive in a world that is increasingly becoming unrecognisable, shifting to a business model that is both efficient and easily scalable is imperative. At the heart of this is connectivity, it enables the ability to create a consistent buying experience that is highly scalable and lets you interact with the end user in a much more engaging way.

Finally, if you could reimagine the relationship between people and technology, what would be your one wish in terms of society as a whole benefiting from MaaS?

Today we use our cars 4% of the time, for 96% they are not in use. This is a tragic waste of resources. We need to be more focused on usage not ownership. Up until now we have had to own a car because we might need to use it some of the time. Technology will enable us to call on the resources when we need them. It will reduce wastage and make our society more efficient. Technology will enable a more sustainable society in the mobility sector.

Tony Whitehorn

Consultant

Tony has worked in the automotive industry for more than 35 years, holding senior positions with Renault, Toyota and Hyundai. He is passionate about helping businesses succeed through collaboration, embracing change and empowering their people. Tony helps our clients to assess their readiness, navigate the necessary changes and start to build on their vision of this future as it relates to mobility ecosystems. When he isn’t working, he loves playing and watching sport, volunteering with his church and spending time with his family.

 

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