Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Elephants And Rooms

Interesting article at Forbes...

Toyota Executive Vice President, Didier Leroy, spoke to a small group of reporters in Japan and said some interesting things.

First, who the hell is Didier Leroy?
Didier Leroy, a former Carlos Ghosn disciple and longtime leader of Toyota’s European business, has been made Toyota’s first non-Japanese EVP, member of a four-man group that reports directly to Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda and is tasked to think and act as if they run the whole company. As president of Toyota’s Business Unit No. 1, the Frenchman is responsible for “around 65% of Toyota’s sales,” we heard yesterday. He also is Chief Competitive Officer, a role he described like this:
“Grasp faster and better than any competitor the needs of the customer in all the different markets. Reduce the lead time to develop new products to be faster on the market.”
Well that's all nice as far as it goes but the real trick is getting from point A to point B, not just pointing out that the trip is necessary.

As far as Leroy is concerned, this is “no longer just a competition with GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, or Honda.” He clearly views Google and Apple as competitors, despite, or maybe because of the fact that both have reportedly ditched carmaking plans to focus on the brains of future cars while leaving the tough part of making the hardware to Toyota, VW, et al.  Said Leroy:
“If you consider the next 20 years, a big part of the growth in the automotive industry will not come from more vehicle sales. It will come from services.”
With that, data will turn into one of a car company’s core assets. Of course, Google and Apple covet these data, and access to the roughly one billion people held captive in their cars each day. Of course, most automakers don’t want to end up sucked dry like newspaper and magazine publishers. Automakers have the scale and financial wherewithal to fund their own software development, and they do. 

And that's the problem, as I see it. Carmakers aren't newspaper publishers and what they do isn't actually being replaced by large tech companies who have already discovered that what car companies is fiendishly difficult and expensive. I'm not saying car companies don't have to watch their ass but this whole Google and Apple as some kind of scary boogieman is silly. If Apple really wanted a car company, they could just buy one. So let's be clear here, in my opinion, a lot of this scaremongering from the car companies is cover to avoid working with tech companies who, by nature of who they are, are much better at doing what most car companies fail miserably at.

Earlier in the week, down the road from Toyota in Yokohama, Ogi Redzic, head of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services at the Renault-Nissan Alliance, told reporters assembled at the Nissan HQ that he is fielding a small army of coders to develop connectivity technologies in-house. Soon he will have 1,000 experts in software, cloud engineering, data analytics, machine learning and systems architecture working for him and the Alliance. They develop a common hardware/software platform, based on Linux. The cloud services are provided by Microsoft via Azure. There was no Google or Apple in Redzic’s presentation.

I'm sure Google and Apple are quaking in their boots.

My main point is simple, the main reason for car companies keeping software in house is obvious, they refuse to give up what might be a source of revenue. That's fine from a revenue perspective but continually, the one thing consumers despise about their vehicles is the hinky way most of the software works, or, more to the point, doesn't work. This is what happens when you insist on reinventing the wheel with, arguably, people who are already on the second team, the stronger developers are already employed by, well, Google and Apple, to name just two companies.