Big Changes are coming: The Cars vs. Phones Barometer

When you talk to managers in the Japanese automotive industry about their worst rival, it is often not another car manufacturer that is on their mind, but the mobile phone. Even before the 2008 world economic crisis, passenger car sales in Japan had been shrinking for years. According to an industry insider, one reason was because the vast majority of young men who used to spend significant sums of money on cars now prefer shelling out $ 100 or more per month for the voice and data services of their mobile companion.

This little anecdote shows that something quite extraordinary is going on in Japan. While physical mobility is taken for granted, the mobile phone is about to supersede the car as a symbol of freedom. The attraction is understandable. The car offered people in the analog age the dream of individual mobility — to go everywhere, whenever you liked. Whereas the mobile phone enables people of the digital age to communicate and to link with almost everything and everybody on this planet from anywhere anytime.

From: The six immutable laws of mobile business by Philip Sugai, Marco Koeder, Ludovico Ciferri.

That last sentence needs to be considered by everyone in business, working for a non-profit, artists – anyone that needs to connect with other people. There is a such a profound shift under way that many people may not even notice it happening. Entire countries that missed the PC revolution are coming online for the first time via mobiles.

And it is not just happening in Japan:

Young people today would rather have the latest smartphone than a flashy car. And the number of them who can drive is plummeting. Is Britain’s love-affair with the car really over?

“Car manufacturers are worried that younger people in particular don’t aspire to own cars like we used to in the 70s, 80s, or even the 90s. Designers commonly say that teenagers today aspire to own the latest smartphone more than a car. Even car enthusiasts realise we’ve reached a tipping point.” – Tim Pollard, associate editor at CAR magazine

The two above quotes come from a Guardian article that goes on to explore various alternative car-sharing models including Streetcar, Zipcar and Whipcar.

Improved, more environmentally friendly transportation systems built around access instead of ownership – all managed via your mobile – is just one scenario that will impact car manufacturers.

What industry are you in?

If mobile phones can take the place cars in the eyes of youth – what will mobiles do to your industry?

What can you do to embrace the opportunities pro-actively?