From the New York Times:
Eric Larsen heads research in society and technology at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development in Sunnyvale, Calif. …
The suburbs are still very important. You hear about people moving back into Detroit, but the urban areas that are growing larger in size are in the South and West, and they are suburban-born. They have downtowns, but they’re empty at night. That has implications for transporting goods and people. …
Young people have had their adulthood postponed by the recession, but most of them will still get married and move to the suburbs. They want children, and they want home-based lives. They like to have space around them. They fill up a car with kids, dogs and stuff from big-box supply stores. That means people will still want big cars. …
… there will be privately shared vehicles. We have a business called Boost, where minivans drive children after school. They are like school buses, but door to door, and parents can track them with a phone app. They have a concierge as well as a driver, because the driver can’t leave the bus and walk the kid right to the door. A 7-year-old needs that. In this case, we’re selling a mobility service rather than a product.
Mostly, we don’t think people will give up their own cars. Americans like to do everything in the cars. They eat in cars, they drink in cars, they have entertainment in cars and they change clothes in cars — people who leave the office at lunch and sleep in their cars, or wait in their cars for an hour at a time for their children.
Driving is really the distracting thing we do in cars. …
What about electric cars?
This part of the model isn’t broken for most car owners. Fracking has been a strong influence, keeping gas prices low. Internal combustion engines are getting better mileage. Natural gas is cleaner burning and is easier to install from a technology point of view.
Refueling with gasoline is five minutes, once a week. People have anxiety around running out of fuel with electric cars. Tesla is building out a network of fast charging stations. Cities are doing it too, with charging stations at a few spots in city garages. But if electric cars become popular, are they really going to put a charger in every space in the garage? …
Wealthy people want to show that they care about saving the world. The Prius was generally bought by people who could afford a more expensive car. Tesla put that in an even sexier package — you get a high-performance car and it’s green.
One of the challenges is that luxury wants to be heavy, with better seats, more safety features, more stuff in the car. Authenticity matters too. Wealthy people want things that are natural and handmade.
In our AMG model we have an idea of “One man, one engine,” with the name of the person who made the engine on it. Leather will never go out of shoes or handbags, and probably not cars.
There’s a constant back-and-forth. It’s hard to be rich without contradicting yourself.
Other insights here.