Why Your Car Will Become Even More Like an iPhone
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Why Your Car Will Become Even More Like an iPhone

Doug Field, who left Apple for Ford in September, talks about automation and Detroit vs. Silicon Valley.

By MIKE COLIAS
Fri, Nov 5, 2021 11:04amGrey Clock 4 min

Car companies are trying to change a century-old business model: Make a car, sell it, and hope the customer comes back years later to buy another one.

Instead, they’re increasingly developing vehicles as digital devices, with the ability to remotely beam new services and features to the car that could make it easier and more fun to use—while notching extra revenue.

For traditional auto makers, the ability to update cars like an iPhone is in its infancy, though Tesla Inc. pioneered the practice. When Ford Motor Co. was looking for help with the digital transition, it plucked Doug Field, a former Tesla and Apple Inc. executive, to lead the charge in coming up with new digital features to foster an “always-on” connection to customers.

Mr. Field spent five years at Tesla, including as engineering chief, where he helped develop the Model 3. He did two stints at Apple, most recently starting in 2018 as vice president of special projects, before joining Ford in September.

He talked to The Future of Everything about what to expect from the car-ownership experience in the years ahead. Electrification and at least partial automation will be the norm, he predicts. For auto makers, the real differentiator will be offering an immersive experience, transforming the vehicle into a home-entertainment studio, gaming platform or conference room.

“The disruption in the auto industry, driven by software, autonomy and electrification, is going to be as big as anything that’s happened in the last century,” Mr. Field says.

What’s a feature or service that, five years from now, people won’t think twice about spending $20 or $30 a month to get?

Autonomy is the best example. You might choose different packages, a subscription-based service for how the vehicle operates autonomously. That’s already the way it works at Tesla. Once you have autonomy, you’ve unlocked the ability to do other things in the vehicle. Today, there are features that are fully hands off, but you’ve got to keep your eyes on the road. I’m talking hands off, eyes off [in the future]. And if you need to drive again, you have plenty of notice. It’s a very gentle experience to take over, and if you don’t, there’s a very gentle response to pull over into a safe situation. It’ll be a much smoother transition between humans and autonomy than this idea of a big switch that gets flipped from one to the other.

Will car owners be able to remotely choose features a la carte?

Content absolutely will be a la carte. You’ll see certain types of connectivity and features that might involve a situation where, for example, a car is shared by five people. You could have a circle of friends who decide they’re going to buy a car together. There’s a little scheduling app that basically keeps track of who’s going to use the vehicle when, making sure that it’s charged in between. So it’s not just the software inside the vehicle, but it’s also the services that free people from the burden of car ownership while maintaining their connection with the product.

In that scenario, you could customize things for each owner?

Through software, yes. Successful tech companies build hardware carefully, with not a huge amount of variation, and then put the variation in those products through software. A lot of the [auto] industry has grown up with massive variation. With technology differences, you have a fundamentally differentiated product. You don’t have to chop your lineup into all these tiny little slices. You’re going to have fewer models.

So people will choose their vehicles for different reasons in the future?

You don’t show off your phone anymore. And your identity doesn’t feel threatened when somebody else has an iPhone 13. My differentiation is in things like my Twitter page or my Instagram. It’s a very different way that people create their identity, whereas in the past, a car was a big part of that. I think that will largely fade away. There will always be niche products that are really unique and fun to drive and heavily styled, like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Horses didn’t go away when cars came along, but they became recreational. Sports cars will be recreational.

Can the car companies compete with Big Tech on digital services and user interface?

Where the auto manufacturers can do things that are really special are vehicle-specific. The companies that do this really well will have products that people will walk out of their homes and sit in for the experience, even if they’re not going anywhere. A company that does this right could theoretically take the wheels off and plop it in your backyard and it’s a product, like an Airstream. It becomes fundamentally the best place you could have a conference call or listen to music or watch a movie.

We talk a lot about Detroit versus Silicon Valley. Where is that battle headed?

This story is being written right now, and the outcome is not yet clear. Technology transitions allow a whole bunch of new people to come in. These people come in with a blank slate, they get to shed all the baggage. The path for a [traditional auto maker] is to figure out how to leverage history and shed baggage, and that is very, very hard. There’s a race on. Are [auto makers] going to learn tech and customer experience faster than the startups are going to learn high-volume, high-quality, low-cost production and a bunch of other things people take for granted in cars? It’s a race.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

 

Reprinted by permission of WSJ. Magazine. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: November 4, 2021.



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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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