Walking out to David Bowie’s hit 1970s song “Changes,” Jeff Makarewicz, group vice president of vehicle, quality and safety engineering for Toyota Motor North America, said the song’s lyrics are a powerful message for companies in the age of new mobility.
“We are undergoing a profound transformation driven by new services, new competitors and global human challenges,” Makarewicz said. “Companies that embrace this disruption will be the difference between those that live and those that die.”
As part of his Automobility Forum town hall discussion at the MICHauto Summit, Makarewicz showed off Toyota’s e-Palette, an automated, electric, flexible vehicle concept that can be tailored to various needs and lifestyles. The concept, which debuted at CES 2018, is part of Toyota’s plan to develop a suite of connected mobility solutions.
Makarewicz pointed to four megatrends impacting Toyota and the overall industry in Michigan: the Internet of Things, autonomous machine learning, the rise of mobility as a service, and electrification.
As the industry evolves, Makarewicz said, one of the biggest challenges will be overcoming consumer perception around autonomous and electric vehicles. For instance, Makarewicz said the electric vehicle share of new vehicle sales in the United States still hovers near .6 percent, yet more and more consumers indicate an interest in purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle.
“Companies are investing in a lot of technology and partnerships with many unknowns. Where is the money to be made? You can’t let that question stop you. You must be agile, forward-thinking and embrace risk. That is what we’re doing at Toyota,” he said.