The Future of Cars: 5 Questions with Audi’s Scott Reynolds

Hot on the heels of the tech-focused TU Automotive conference, we spoke with Audi of America’s Mobility Business Development Manager Scott Reynolds about Audi Mobility, changing views of car ownership, and the future of the industry in the age of autonomous automobiles.

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Aria: Tell me about what encompasses Audi mobility, and what the goals are for the program.

Scott Reynolds: Audi mobility, at its core, is a suite of services designed to satisfy customer’s needs for automotive transportation on an as-needed basis.

 

A: Tell me about the customer response to services like Audi on demand and Audi at home, and what has the company learned from it?

SR: The customer response has been tremendous, and our satisfaction scores are very high and very positive overall. As a result of launching such a new line of business(es), we’ve learned a lot about our own internal processes and how to streamline things for the future.

 

A: In the age of the autonomous vehicle, how do you think the sales/usage model will change?

SR: I think we’re on the cusp of revolutionary change—one as significant as the transition from horse and buggy to automobile. Developments and innovation in electric, autonomous and mobility/shared services are all hitting their stride at the same point in time; it’s aligned with customer needs and acceptance, and this will force OEMs to adapt and innovate.  The customer journey will fundamentally change as a result.

 

A: There tends to be a lot of pride and prestige that comes with car ownership. How do these new mobility models express or change that?

SR: The pride of ownership certainly exists and will continue to exist.  However, customer behavior is shifting—Uber has luxury ride options, designer gowns are available online for an evening event use and can be returned after, the same is true of fine timepieces, private air travel is really changing, and so on. The behavior difference we see is that luxury goods can be owned, but they don’t have to be owned to enjoy. Consumers can get a luxury experience for a short period of time only if/as they need it rather than investing in one long term. This is interesting when pricing is considered by the luxury brand and obsolescence is avoided by the customer.

 

A: There’s a big connection to the driving experience and the brands associated with it. Once cars are driving themselves, will it even matter what brand of car we buy? How will brand personality and identity be established without the connection to the driver?

SR: Audi is sporty, sophisticated, and progressive. These core brand values ring true in our products and service(s)—this will not change. To the point of brand differentiation in an autonomous world, we’ll have new and creative ways to continue to embody these tenets. Instead of simply having more singular focus on the drive, the automotive experience may also incorporate things like ease of integration with personal devices and the customer’s (ever expanding) personal tech ecosystem, access to mobility or perks not available with other brands, etc.  For the moment, we see the driver still being engaged and in control, but as autonomous/piloted driving and services emerge, we will have products that complement the customer’s needs for these uses.  The experience may change, but the brand principles will not.

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