LOS ANGELES — If the auto industry thinks it will be immune from the short product life cycles that the electronics industry transitions through every year or six months, just wait, said Tom Gebhardt, CEO of auto supplier Panasonic Corp. of North America. The auto industry will be next.
Consumer electronics companies don't have such short product cycles because they like turning products over that quickly, he said, or because it's a good way to make money, or even because consumer needs necessarily change that fast.
"It isn't because we want to do that. It's simply because we make a lot of mistakes, and we can't wait three or four years for a cycle to fix them," Gebhardt said in a keynote speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
If consumer electronics companies waited years to fix a problematic product, consumers would simply buy someone else's, he said. "The consumer is really finicky," he said.
Ride-hailing and other mobility services, electrification of the powertrain, connectivity and autonomous driving will disrupt the industry and force faster life cycles, he said.
"I think the automotive business is going to go through that learning as it gets disrupted," Gebhardt said.
Gebhardt made a few predictions for when adoption rates for certain technologies would reach critical mass. Today, smartphone app-based based mobility services account for "low single digits" of passenger trips, but he said that by 2025 that could reach 15 percent.
"If you build something faster, better, cheaper, the consumer will buy it," he said.
Gebhardt predicted that by 2022 cars with internal combustion engines and electric vehicles could reach "parity" in terms of cost and functionality. "At that point, adoption will take off," he said. By itself, being eco-friendly is not an enabler for mass adoption, Gebhardt said.
By 2030, he said, at least 15 percent of vehicles would be autonomous. That may not sound like much, but it would be 15 million autonomous vehicles on the road, Gebhardt said. The key will be when consumers decide autonomous vehicles let them spend the time they now spend driving doing something they like better.
"If you can give them back time the customer will buy it," he said.