Digital cars are the next big thing in both the auto and tech industries, and major car manufacturers, like BMW, are already getting onboard.Just like the revolution brought by Ford’s assembly line a hundred years ago, today’s cars are in for a whole new kind of transformation -- digitization. Given advancements in wireless communication, the compression of data storage, and the development of smart objects and devices, it’s about time that cars became as intelligent as the people driving them.Unfortunately, most automakers are struggling to keep up with current digital trends. In fact, the majority of digital progress in the automobile industry to date has been customer-driven -- a reactive approach to progress. But some companies are being proactive, and it’s already paying off.
A few of the largest car producers, including the automaking giant BMW, are making a splash by riding the digital wave. Earlier this month, BMW CEO Harald Krueger announced his plan to overhaul the company's corporate strategy and push BMW into the digital age.So far, the new approach has manifested in a $2.7 billion purchase of Nokia’s high-def mapping business, aspirations to create self-driving cars, and an under-wraps meeting with Apple about vehicle manufacturing.This suspected partnership with Apple -- which I don’t have to tell you is a pioneer in the digital field -- is already evident in BMW dealerships worldwide. The company now refers to its salespeople as “product geniuses” and adorns its showrooms with large screens, making the experience almost more cinematic than commercial. BMW appears to be emulating Apple’s emphasis on user-pleasing products, as well as its mission to defy tech norms.
The case of BMW is proof that big strategy shifts can actually lead to real digital progress, and that smaller initiatives, which the company had taken before Krueger’s stint as CEO, can only produce short-term results.CEOs are discovering that they’ll need to take big steps in the digital direction to make an impact, but the transition still presents a variety of challenges. For starters, a company's entire business strategy and operations model will need to be rebuilt to accommodate new, more forward-thinking missions. Additionally, executives need to develop new KPIs for their digital investments in order to ensure accountability and responsibility. Just like with any other investment they make, those in leadership roles need to understand each digital initiative enough to develop metrics that will measure its progress.Though there’s no shortage of obstacles, auto manufacturers are going to have to keep striving to stay on trend if they want to do more than meet customer demands and become innovative leaders in their space. And only once the automobile industry fully embraces digital transformation will they truly be driving us into a new era.