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Transport – Proposed Way Forward

Over the next decade, some predict that upwards of an extra 300 million people will gain access to their own cars. By contrast in the whole of the past century Ford only produced 90 million vehicles. Some consumers will seek to make choices based on sustainability issues but most will continue to aspire to have the best products they can. While the two are in no way independent, as more and more manufacturers join the likes of Renault and Toyota in announcing all new electric and hybrid ranges for launch in 2012, we, as individuals, will be attracted to rent, buy or lease the vehicles that not only meet our needs but also say something special: Because it creates the aspiration by which many other areas judge progress, the luxury market in which Jaguar plays a key role will continue to be a primary source of influence on consumer choice across the sector.

I see that luxury market buyers increasingly want ‘better not more’. I believe that this trend will increase as people seek to buy items of higher quality, greater intellectual depth and perceived value. We will move away from the “Bling Bling” culture that has been with us for the last eight years. The decline of the SUV market is already heralding a shift in the way car companies as such are positioning themselves to express a more environmentally responsible message over just the car’s performance: The new luxury 5 door vehicles are not SUVs but “fast backs” like the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, Audi Sportback and Lexus LF-Ch Hybrid concepts which will have as much design influence in the US market as they do in Europe and Japan.

Luxury goods buyers, I believe, will want to have items that are visually more discreet: At the height of the credit crunch, shoppers on New York’s 5th Avenue were disguising their designer label purchases in brown bags – this may not be a short term fad. In other markets, we are leaving the era of buying disposable IKEA-esque goods and seeking items that offer longevity and quality – a future heirloom maybe? This is, in some ways, a return to the values of previous generations.

An example from outside the transport sector that supports this is the Slow Food movement which is now coming of age. Originally established in 1989 as a reaction to the growth of fast food, Slow Food focuses more on enjoyment, quality and the effect upon others – an interesting parallel to the use of transport.

Although for many, perhaps the greatest statement of one’s personal freedom and, ultimately, individuality is still the car. For others their buying tastes are changing and the consumers’ definition of status and how a car features in their lives is shifting: A recent survey of 18-24 year olds of their top five most valued possessions showed cars to be very low or non existent as a priority for this influential community. Members of this group will one day be influencing how car companies cater for their needs, tastes and aspirations.

I believe, society will react to the presentation of a number of influences in car design – from increased globalisation and greater international collaboration between manufacturers, government policy and climate change regulation through to the shift in the balance of wealth and the cultural influence of growing eastern markets. As globalisation continues, national identity and ultimate individuality will increase as a key factor in design differentiation. Well recognised in such brands as Citroen which bring French values to the fore, may well be joined by new brands reflecting Chinese and Indian values. Indeed, as the balance of wealth changes between the East and West, we can expect both new global marques to emerge as well as new market niches that encourage more vehicles to be more clearly Asian in values. The traditional cyclical product needs of the US will be increasingly challenged by new luxury car markets: I will be interested to see how the success and wealth growth in such countries as Russia and India will impact the tastes and trends in the west.

While we can clearly see the trajectory of more efficient vehicles, many of which may be smaller that today’s, we can also see the role of luxury setting the ambition and attracting consumers across all platforms: Although traditionally associated with large four door vehicles, it will be interesting to see if any luxury marques will also migrate to smaller platforms.

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