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The investments necessary to obtain the autonomous car feed the recent wave of integrations

The future for the automotive industry is presented as a roller. The unprepared will be overwhelmed by competitors. Because, as they like to repeat to the big executives, “the engine sector is going to change more in the next 50 years than in the previous 100”, and new trends do not expect anyone.

Although they speak of half a century, the truth is that most of the manufacturers advance these macro trends that are going to revolutionize the automobile industry to five years seen. In a brief definition, the car of the future will be electric, shared and autonomous. BMW will have its iNext, its first 100% electric and stand-alone level 5 vehicle (without steering wheel and pedals), in 2021. It is the same date Ford aims to have the first general car available for sale (ie , Affordable for the general public) with this degree of autonomy. Volkswagen presented its Sedric, its autonomous level 5 transport at the Geneva Motor Show, which aims to bring consumers between 2019 and 2020. Nissan has just made its first Autopilot Level 4 vehicle test in London (the driver can take over Of the control of the car, but this one can circulate by any means without aid). For its part, electric car batteries already provide 500 kilometers of driving without recharging as in the superlaunch models of Tesla. It is only a question of time and economies of scale that double this amount.

The race for innovation comes at a cost. Very high, in fact, if we take into account that cars have to introduce some technologies that they do not know in their models while the technological ones, the real experts, make their pinitos with their own autonomous vehicles. And this is causing mergers, alliances, purchases and deals with an effervescence that was not seen since before the crisis, with the Fiat Chrysler merger. As Harald Krüger, BMW’s world president, said in his meeting with the press at the Geneva International Motor Show, “Investments to cope with trends are difficult to do on their own, they need a lot of economic resources. It is not totally unexpected to think about processes of greater consolidation in the sector “.

It is not the recipe that they apply to themselves, as they aim to “be very strict from the financial point of view to deal with these investments.” BMW has just concluded an agreement with Intel to assist in the development of autonomous driving and participated in the purchase of Here, the application of maps of Nokia, with Audi and Daimler. It aims to sell 100,000 electric vehicles this year. He has a future strategy and is on the path, although he is costing him the leadership by volume of sales against Mercedes.

So, to achieve these goals, or is a premium brand like BMW, with wide margins that allow the investment, or 10 million cars sold, as it happens to the Volkswagen group. The company has introduced Sedric and has announced that its subsidiary Audi will have an autonomous vehicle division through which it will work for the entire group. Shortly thereafter, on April 5, Audi and Porsche, another subsidiary of VW, agreed to work together on digitalization, electrification and autonomous driving. Among them, they will finance and develop technologies that will take advantage of all the group’s brands. In a phrase that the president of Seat, Luca de Meo, likes to repeat: “Seat is in no hurry to have electric cars (or self-employed) because it has available the entire supermarket of the Volkswagen group. It can introduce these technologies in vehicles when the market and demand justify it. ”

The rest have two options: either they eat or are devoured. Or they are able to ally themselves with each other or with stronger ones to survive. The alliance with a capital letter is written by Renault and Nissan, who have managed to position themselves as fourths in sales volume last year, behind VW, Toyota and General Motors. They have a strong project in an autonomous vehicle that has just started its test run in Europe. But they are already leading electric car sales, with the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, and intend to further strengthen this segment thanks to the purchase of Mitsubishi, which will share production platforms and plug-in models, according to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei. They also have agreements with Daimler to jointly produce vehicles on common platforms.

The purchase of fashion, which has put on the table the possibility of a greater concentration in the sector, is the Opel by PSA to General Motors for 2.2 billion euros. The key elements of this operation are the economies of scale that the group achieves in Europe to be the second in volume, and the technologies for electric vehicles that Opel has developed and in the market with the Ampera E. In terms of autonomy, PSA Made in 2015 a trip in tests of its autonomous vehicle from Paris to its factory of Vigo and, from there, to its factory of Madrid. They expect to have their first car autopilotado in the market in 2020.

Great allies

But you do not have to be small to want to have allies. Toyota is the second automobile by volume and maintains several agreements with companies like Mazda, Suzuki or BMW for the development of those niches of market where it does not arrive. His commitment to the hydrogen fuel cell as an alternative fuel and the successive impacts of the earthquakes in Japan have been really expensive. More efficient and emission-free electric vehicles, sports cars or diesel combustion engines are the keys to your alliances.

The alliances, however, exceed the edges of the automotive industry and approach the field of technology. Volvo has an agreement with Uber for autonomous driving where one puts the cars, and the other, the driving software. It is already running in tests in Pittsburgh. BMW has closed a major collaboration agreement with Intel for the development of processors that will improve autonomy, and others such as Ford or Hyundai have agreements with Google or Amazon. Because although Google has tried to make its own autonomous car, reality is showing that the alliance (with the one that knows) makes the force and the success.

Noemi Navas – Madrid – 23 ABR 2017

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