Breitfeld sees the German carmakers’ answer to the expected surge in electric car demand – putting an electric motor in a conventional car – as a mistake. He believes it leaves the industry vulnerable to a ‘Nokia moment’: when a new player uses a transformational design to seize control of an established market, as Apple’s (AAPL.O) iPhone stole a march on Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia a decade ago.
“Tesla was pathbreaking with its electric car, and that’s what everybody is seeking to develop now. The next step is the connected car, which gives consumers a completely new digital experience. That’s equivalent to a step from the Nokia to a smartphone,” Breitfeld said.
Breitfeld is so convinced of this that he left his job at BMW in 2015, where he was part of a small team working on clean sheet electric cars – a project that caught the attention of Apple.
BMW and Apple explored a partnership on cars in 2014, but ultimately went their separate ways.
Since then German carmakers have worked hard to marginalise the influence consumer electronics and technology companies could have over their vehicles, jointly buying digital mapping firm HERE as a way to reduce the industry’s dependence on maps provided by Apple and Google (GOOGL.O).
Breitfeld says this defensive approach means carmakers are failing to take advantage of consumer electronics innovations.
By contrast, Byton vehicles are designed to take advantage of the “passenger economy”: watching movies, chatting with friends or surfing the Internet while in your car.
“Apple created a platform and profits from every transaction made with their objects. We will offer content for our consumers,” Breitfeld said of his strategy to make money from selling movies and other entertainment or services.
“For this you need a completely different architecture and computing power,” Breitfeld said.
Carsten Breitfeld links.