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Mobile fuels tectonic shifts in auto and transportation industries: GM exec

NEW YORK - An executive from General Motors discussed the state of mobile at the MMA SM2 Innovation Summit 2016 and highlighted the way it has fueled innovation and change within the automotive industry.

In the constantly changing world of technology, mobile is one of the most powerful and disruptive forces to be introduced in decades ? hence SM2?s theme of ?disruption.? The automotive and transportation industries are not exempt from feeling the tectonic shifts that ubiquitous mobility has wrought in nearly all aspects of business and marketing.

?Here in New York City, many of you probably don?t even own a vehicle,? said Tim Mahoney, global chief marketing officer at Chevrolet and global marketing operations leader at GM. ?Mobile is fueling alternatives to car ownership for so many."

Changing automotive landscape
Mr. Mahoney posited that the connection between cars and mobile is that they both offer people a way to connect others. 

?When I was a kid, I wanted to get a car as soon as possible so I could go see my friends,? Mr. Mahoney said.

Now, however, young people can connect with their friends in a huge number of ways through mobile and the Internet. In response, people are not buying cars as early as they once did, presenting a challenge for automotive companies such as Chevrolet.

The proliferation of mobile has led to changing expectations as well. Customers now expect a certain level of technology from all of their experiences.

Purchasing a car is more of a commitment than most purchases, meaning that it is important for car manufacturers to provide as much value as possible. To match the heightened expectations that consumers now have, Mr. Mahoney stressed the integration of mobile with the driving experience.

This mobile integration starts with the purchase. Customers today spend 75 percent of their research time online, as opposed to on the lot, Mr. Mahoney said.

More than half of customers do their searching through mobile and 56 percent use mobile while on the lot. The increased amount of knowledge that consumers have means that they are visiting the lots less often, making the limited time they spend on-site even more important.

Chevrolet has capitalized on this mobile behavior by creating what it calls the first Wi-Fi connected car, the Chevrolet Cruze. The Cruze is aimed at younger customers and Chevrolet emphasizes its mobile capabilities in its marketing materials for the car.

Mobile disruption
Mr. Mahoney spoke about the deeper ways mobile has shaken up the transportation and automotive industries aside from just changing consumer behavior.

The prevalence of mobile technology has led to the rise of ride-sharing, such as the services provide by Uber, Via and the Chevrolet-invested Lyft.

Companies such as the aforementioned Uber have also tempered the desire to purchase a car. In urban environments, the convenience of Uber combined with the lack of difficult maintenance fees that one would get from owning a car makes it a tempting choice.

Car manufacturers that want to stay relevant need to embrace ride-sharing and other innovations such as autonomous cars, which Mr. Mahoney calls a total arms race with multiple companies both inside the automotive industry and out all competing.

Ultimately, the more mobile functionality that can be integrated into the car purchasing and driving processes, the better.

?We have 2.2 million Wi-Fi enabled cars on the road already,? Mr. Mahoney said. ?And that number is only going up.?