Saw a piece “European Automakers Face Diminished Future” and checked it out to see if there might be a “values” connection. Europe in general — and Northern Europe in particular — is at the leading edge of the values shifts outlined in “ConsumerShift.” The question we might ask is whether it is just an industry slump, or is some larger change afoot? The article notes upfront that: “….it is dawning on industry executives that it could be years before sales return to the levels seen in 2007….”
The piece suggests no easy solutions – it observes some grumbling about the effects of the European debt crisis. Certainly the debt crisis is a factor, but is that it? I don’t think so. In a previous post, Changing Values and “Enoughness” Suggest Economic Stimulus Won’t Work, I suggested that US efforts to stimulate consumption were missing the trend toward consuming less. The values shifts have led enough people to shift their consumption patterns such that they won’t be “stimulated” back to the old ways. I suspect a similar shift at play in Europe, where one could argue they’ve already “been there” in terms of less “consumptive” lifestyles.
So, is at all doom and gloom then for the European automakers? No, but an adjustment is ahead. A few years back when I was with Innovaro (formerly Social Technologies), we had a day-long consortium meeting on the “Soft Path.” Our goal was, among other things, to paint a picture of a future society where consumption was less central, and to have our clients explore what it meant for their businesses – with many of them built around an assumption of continued growth in consumption. The message of the meeting is that while this future is different, and will certainly influence business models, it is not so “scary” if one prepares.
And let’s not forget that this less-consumption trend is largely an affluent-country phenomenon. The piece goes on to note, for instance, that: “Despite the dismal outlook for Europe, auto executives said they remained optimistic about the car industry globally. Sales continue to rise in countries like Brazil and Russia, offsetting Europe to some extent.” The modern values of the emerging markets are in the “growth is good” phase and their huge populations and can more than offset the decline in the affluent nations.
As is so often the case, the future is really not scary, it’s different! Andy Hines.