The revival of the automotive industry, between innovation and adaptation

Last updated:

The revival of the automotive industry is becoming more and more urgent and we hear different theories about the future of the automobile (1). On the one hand, the most extreme announce its end. Brandishing the congestion of roads, the significant cost of a driver’s licence, or environmental and regulatory constraints, they argue the lowering of the age of acquisition of the licence and the reduction of individual cars in the city to support the thesis of the end of current vehicles in the longer term. On the other hand, there is an unwavering cult of this means of locomotion. Freedom of movement, ease of transporting several people and heavy loads, long-distance travel, it is true that today nothing seems to be able to replace it.

At the same time, and immediately, the French automotive industry is indeed falling behind. Positioned on the mid-range, it faces the ferocity of competition in Europe and Asia. Uncompetitive, nor qualitatively, nor financially, it needs to renew itself.

In this context with various theories, innovative and even original solutions are emerging. To adapt to consumer expectations, or at least to supposed expectations, manufacturers compete with ingenuity. However, beyond innovations in finished products, it is also a whole mode of marketing that seems to be reviewing. This will allow more traditional manufacturers to hold on for a longer period of time.

Technological innovations to challenge the automotive industry

In order to provide solutions to the problems raised, manufacturers are perfecting vehicles. On the energy side, the trend remains to electric vehicles, the only clean alternative that seems to stand out from the crowd. For the French automotive industry, some even see it as a real opportunity (2). Indeed, France benefits from a vast field of knowledge about the automobile, as well as an enviable level of technology. In addition, this could allow it to go upmarket and get out of the competitive slump that currently serves it. Nevertheless, with innovations in the electric or hybrid multiplying, and leaders such as Toyota further positioning their position, it may be relevant to consider other possible responses to the sector’s energy problems.

On the other hand, the adaptation of the automobile does not only involve the quest for green cars. All manufacturers also focus on the design of smart vehicles, equipped with technological equipment (3). On the front line: connected cars. Already well present in the market, they accounted for one third of sales in 2015 and two-thirds in 2018. According to a Dekra Automotive study, these vehicles are very attractive to the French. They believe that connected cars are more entertaining, better monitor the condition of the vehicle, and that their technologies improve road safety. Favorite features include GPS, rearview camera, remote locking and geolocation.

Beyond connected cars, this is the reality of autonomous vehicles that manufacturers pursue. To get into the movement and not be left behind, France has presented a plan for the development of autonomous vehicles as early as May 2018. On the agenda is the preparation of a legal framework and a liability regime capable of receiving these new uses. Autonomous cars are estimated to account for 30% of global automotive production by 2035.

Solutions in line with consumer expectations?

At the heart of everyday life, like cars, the web giants are also looking to take a place in the revival of the automotive industry. Google, like Amazon or Apple, offer their voice-driving assistants. At the same time, teams are working on their own autonomous cars: the GoogleCar and Apple’s Titan project.

However, do these innovations meet consumers’ desires and needs? In reality, nothing is less certain. Although attracting attention and general curiosity, these creations are not seen very well. Indeed, concerned about the information collected, 95% of Europeans are asking for a law to arbitrate the collection and use of this data. They also want to be able to choose the information transmitted and be able to cut the connected features. Innovation, comfort and security yes, but not at the cost of the end of intimacy and free will.

If we talk everywhere about these ambitious high-tech projects, we forget that innovation does not always lie in the number of screens and sensors… Sometimes the most interesting finds require a return to the roots. This is what gazelle Techoffers from Bordeaux. Designed by Gael Lavaud, the Gazelle is a car that goes back to basics. It starts from the observation that 75% of the consumption is related to the weight of the vehicle. Thus, by reducing its weight, it reduces its consumption by 50% and its environmental impact by 40%. Made of lightweight composite materials, it takes the opposite thred from conventional car manufacturers. However, it also relies on electrification since it is available in electric and gasoline versions. Clean, reasonably connected, contributing to the relocation of jobs, the Gazelle was welcomed as early as 2017 during a visit by Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of the Economy.

Marketing methods to modernize for the automotive industry

Beyond innovations in cars, technology and digital technology also have their place in the commercialization stage. As a result, the most traditional manufacturers are able to make their mark. With marketing and buying paths in the age of time, dealers can indeed boost their sales.

Today, some are already offering to book online trials. However, the possibilities offer much more promising prospects. According to Noviris, 97% of car purchases start online (4). Yet, even today, many potential buyers are disappointed by the lack of relevant vehicle information. 45% said they would have liked to receive this information in the weeks leading up to their concession visit. In continuity, a buyer visits on average only 2.7 different concessions before switching to purchase. 59% even went to one or two addresses. The digital presence of manufacturers and dealers is therefore an imperative to be part of this short list.

Online catalogue, personalization, virtual or augmented reality… Innovations also involve original marketing strategies and communications operations. Goal: stand out from the crowd. For example, the Volvo Cap Nord Automobile dealership took the position by offering itself a digital showcase of the former Virgin megastore Place Gambetta in Bordeaux for its latest XC60. However, on the communication side, French manufacturers have not always been left behind. Let’s rememberAndré Citroen who had his name written in the sky by planes at the Motor Show…


  1. Nicolas Journet, HumanIties, Automotive, Decline or Renewal, March 2018
More Stories
EMSPROTO gets the French Tech Pass