To the Editor:
Regarding "Industry on Trial": I think the capital-intensive business model will change when autonomous cars become ubiquitous -- around 2050, in my opinion.
Once crashworthiness and emissions requirements become irrelevant, the architecture of the automobile will become drastically different -- essentially electrified vehicles with common chassis components and electric powertrain -- with differentiated bodies. When that happens, the Apple business model starts to make sense.
Yes, Google and Apple may be the first guys out there with such vehicles (although they may have automotive partners). They, too, will be capital destroyers, like Tesla, until they become profitable.
The business model will change as well: Outright ownership will diminish as lease and spot rental take over. Who needs to own a car if you can call up an autonomous one on your phone? I suspect future manufacturers will become rental companies as they try and capture diminishing manufacturing revenue. (Deja vu: Ford buys Hertz!) Cars will then be maintained and refurbished for longer service life.
Theodore & Associates
The writer is a former engineering vice president at Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.