Peggy and Henry Bzeih, CTO/CSO, automotive & transportation, Microsoft, talk about the latest automotive advances at the company. He talks about mega trends, saying mobility is the movement of people and the movement of goods.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. To hear the entire interview on The Peggy Smedley Show, visit http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com, and select 09/21/2021 from the archives.

Peggy Smedley: Henry, I’m so excited to have you here today because we have a lot to talk about. There’s so much happening in automotive. I thought that we could start by having you give us an update on where Microsoft is right now.

I know there’s a whole lot going on with tier one suppliers, OEMs (original-equipment manufacturer), and everything. I thought you could tell us a little bit about what’s going on, because I think if we look at the space right now, automotive has really been accelerated, if we think about what’s going on with contactless, touchless.

I think the pandemic has just pushed everything so quickly. I think we’re all saying what has really happened right now, but I think you’re probably the best one to say, with all these mega trends, with people, and organizations. There’s a lot to unpack. I thought maybe you could give us an overview, and then we can unpack it a little at a time here, for our discussion today.

Henry Bzeih: You definitely covered a lot of ground there, Peggy, which is really awesome, but I’m going to pick maybe one or two things, which are essentially, critical to how we’re functioning at Microsoft when it comes to this industry.

So, I’ll start with the mega trends. And you see what’s happening there. We, as an industry automotive, are a young industry within the company. So, the approach that Microsoft has taken was about creating these verticals that covers very different areas of the ecosystem.

So automotive is one of those industries that came late to the party, but in the last year or so, I would say that we looked at this industry and we have also a transportation industry, and we thought about the whole concept of mobility. And mobility means to us, the movement of people and movement of goods.

And we converged those industries together to give us more leverage, and more synergies, and more efficiency because it’s no longer about just transportation anymore, or just automotive. It’s really about that. It’s about moving people and goods, and the levers that are needed to nurture these new conversions, and look at things in a mobility lens, rather than a just a product lens.

So that’s a big shift that we did at Microsoft. And in terms of our focus, we tend to see things from that lens, and we focus from those areas. And we tend to do that from that perspective.

Smedley: By looking at that, that’s an interesting point, because I would think if you’re looking at goods and that mobility side of things, it then kind of makes you have to shift in a different way of viewing things from software as a service, cloud, AI, I would think cyber data. There’s a whole lot there. It’s not just one thing you have to look at.

So, you’re looking at people, technology, services, and again, when you’re talking about automotive, transportation, all those things that you just said, I would think that you then have to look at this from an operational excellence perspective. Is that true when you described all that to me, just then?

Bzeih: Oh, totally. I think you nailed it. We look at this as a stack, and the stack is, we have some core operational business things that exist today at Microsoft. Whether it’s a manufacturer and supply chain, productivity, the customer experience, all these different products that we have in the solutions, support a lot of these four areas, that are fundamental to the business and the industry.

But what we see as another layer in the stack is the software defined vehicle approach. So we are seeing a trend around software definition, decoupling the hardware from the software, and the whole notion of developing that software and making it operational per se, over the lifecycle of the vehicle, becomes ever important, because in that space, you have the opportunity to go away from a product-centric approach, to more of a service approach, throughout the whole customer lifecycle.

And there’s a continuous touch point, and you can remotely configure. You can remotely provide all the different aspects of that relationship, without having to be limited by these insular technologies within the cars today.

Today, you just build and ship, and everything you need is, you got to go to the dealer, and it’s a pretty clunky customer experience. And so, we see the software-defined vehicles as a critical enabler to that strategy. And so that’s one important area that we publicly announced.

We are working with Bosch on that area, which is a tier one. And so, we see ourselves as enabling that ecosystem, working very closely with the tier ones and OEMs and others.

Smedley: As you work with tier ones and OEMs to help them understand that, are you developing a culture shift by doing that? Because it’s not only where we had these islands of automation, IT/OT, thinking differently in these tier ones. It’s a facility change. It’s a continuous change. It’s not just saying, “It’s a one and done.” You’re constantly having them to react to disruption, using new technologies; the digital twin, the way you have to think differently. Is that what’s happening? Is what you’re describing?

Bzeih: You nailed it, Peggy, you nailed it. These are exactly the areas in which, we feel we bring in the biggest contribution. So, we work very closely with everyone. We have a neutral approach. Like we don’t compete with OEMs, we don’t compete with tier ones. We don’t compete with our partners.

We tend to watch the ecosystem from a nurturing and enablement perspective. And so digital twin is extremely important to the strategy, because when we talk about software definition, you think about creating another model for either a hardware abstraction layer or whatever physical form, in a digital format, in order for you to have the flexibility as a developer or as an engineer, or as someone who is operating the vehicle, to really have that flexibility in what you’re doing. And so that’s one.

Two, think about when you talk about software, about the agile methodology, which is very hard to do in traditional OEM or development process. Like I mentioned, you kick off the project a certain year, and five years later, you launch the vehicle. And so on and off the line, to me, that’s not an agile process.

That agility, in terms of being able to provide those software updates or software packages, develop and release, even postproduction, be in that methodology, is another dimension that comes from the Microsoft world, not just from Microsoft world, from a software world, that we can work very closely with these companies to help them with the culture shift. And so very important.

Smedley: How does it matter as you continue to, when we look at where the market’s gone? We’ve now seen that the market has changed dramatically with the way we look at the types of cars that are coming to market, because we’re now seeing that we’ve had to change in our experience. We’re worried about being… it’s not just climate change, we’re worried about the types of cars, the touchless experience that I mentioned earlier, but now we want autonomous vehicles, your investments that you’re making.

Talk to us about how that’s changing, because that’s going to make us all look at the way we go to market different, in our experience as a customer, but your experience in partnering, as you just described.

Bzeih: Totally. If you see the ecosystem today, you have multiple players. We see the ecosystem is much more than that today, which is mainly OEMs and tier ones. If you look what is happening traditionally, there are definitely new entrants. So, there are definitely new companies that are entering this mix, and they are entering either from the ratification play or from a… some are making innovative manufacturing, micro-factory, or skateboard approach to electrification. I don’t want to mention names.

Then there’s these new mobility innovators, what we call new mobility innovators, who are focused on the journey and focused on the transportation side, from A to B, and multi-modally, and with different focus area.

It’s not really more on automotive, or it’s commercial, or it’s a truck or it’s a car, but it could be anything and it’s a service. Our customer base is a variety of players who have entered the equation, and each of them have a certain market they’re going after. And so that’s how we see the player ecosystem, from that angle.

Smedley: So, Microsoft made an investment in Cruise. Does that change the way you go to market then? Does that make you a competitor or a partner? Does it say, “Look, you’re serious about automotive because you see, one, how that’s going to make contribution to the way you see autonomous vehicles or machine learning algorithms in general.” How do you see yourself in the whole scheme of things then?

Bzeih: Totally. So, our investment in Cruise, it’s definitely not a play for us to compete with our partners’ customers, or anyone like that. The investment is for us to find that autonomous fabric, that we can develop further in order to enable everyone.

And so, any technology that Microsoft develops as part of that investment, it would not be limited to just Cruise. It will be available democratically, for everyone who’s interested in doing business with Microsoft. And then we made that very sure to have within that framework. So, while we have invested, because we see the potential and in Cruise, we definitely made sure that walking away from that, that we are in a position not to limit ourselves to just that investment.

We made it very clear to all parties that whatever IP and whatever autonomous fabric that Microsoft will do, it’s really for the masses and not limited to one entity. And to further talk about that, we like to think of ourselves as the place in which any aspirational, autonomous vehicle company or area, it can come and use our cloud, and our workflows, and our platform to develop those workflows.

We’re trying to develop the ecosystem from a development perspective, and through partners, and through first party IP. And that’s the approach that we have taken is to offer the development platform.

Smedley: How does the digital feedback loop then play? Is that what you talk about there? Is that whole digital feedback loop playing a role into what you’re doing there?

Bzeih: Oh, totally. With firm believers in a digital feedback loop. We feel that is the most important ambition that one can build a business upon. The constant feed or customer input, constant connection between the solution and the customer, is on the forefront of everything we develop. And so, we firmly believe in that, but feel strongly that is a fundamental foundation for success for any business, whether it’s Microsoft or outside of Microsoft.

Smedley: Is this where something like this, Cruise, and others will eventually save lives, because it’s the constant input, and the constant ability of saying, “Look, it’s not just us, it’s everyone. And this is where we need to change, and develop, and grow because we all can do something together.” Is that what you’re saying, or other things you do as well?

Bzeih: No, that’s exactly what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that we see this not a one company play. We see that as a Microsoft play in which whatever we learn and whatever we do, whatever we develop, it’s available to everyone. And it’s not limited to a one-to-one relationship tier. And so, it’s very important to note that this is our approach and our strategy.

Smedley: Do businesses need to realize that in order to keep… we’re in a time of… as we started to talk about disruption. In order to get the best talent, you need to understand, you need to think differently because, when you think about manufacturing in general, I know we’re talking about automotive right now, but it’s the same kind of thinking when you talk about next generation workers, when you talk about mixed reality, the ability to use training to get them because we’re not always in the office. We’re not always on the plant floor. We have to use the latest technology, the latest skills, the tools to train.

Is this that way of doing that, that you’re saying, “Look, we’re using the best of the best. We’re training differently. We’re trying to get there.” Is this the kind of thing that we’re talking about? That we’re constantly training, feeding the knowledge, getting the best generation, to be excited about what they can do to advance their skillsets?

Bzeih: Totally. It’s about digitization, Peggy. It’s important to know. I can give you an example of our HoloLens, which is our mixed reality product that we have out there.

I think in the past when certain OEMs, who are not U.S.-based, they would have these premium complex vehicles, and sometimes a dealer would have some issue with a customer vehicle, in which they can’t repair it or require a tech support, let’s just say from Europe or from some other place in the world.

So, imagine that logistical process. Someone traveling, jumping on a plane, carrying their tools, and their equipment, and coming to the U.S., go to the dealership, and work on the vehicle. That happens. That happens quite a lot. Versus, that tech can be sitting where they are, at home or at their headquarters, in their home country, and work with the local team at that dealership through HoloLens to project the whole experience, so that person who’s in headquarters, get the same experience as the one who’s there right at the shop floor, and give that direction, and have that hands-on experience to resolve the issue and create a digital experience, rather than this physical routine operation that happened.

So, we are doing things like that with companies today, with OEMs. It’s quite successful. And that just gives you a flavor of how we see the morphing of the strategy from that physical strategy to that digital strategy.

Smedley: Are we going to see that same kind of… if you’re talking about HoloLens, are we going to see virtual assistants like that, being able to help us in the way we want to be in our vehicles? I mean, is that really going to be something, going to give us that true personalized experience when and where we want it, in our vehicles? Is that going to happen very soon?

Bzeih: It’s augmentation. It’s a journey; obviously, it requires a lot of good AI development, and those type of technologies require time and effort. So, I would say we’re on a good path forward. It’s a long journey where we’re definitely, I believe in that journey, and we have the technical teams, and the roadmap to do that. And so, I would say it is in the plan for sure. Something that we’re working toward.

Smedley: So, if we’re talking about having our virtual assistants; we’re integrating Amazon and all the other kinds of things, Alexa, and all those kinds of things, Google and all that, into our world. What about now, when we start moving that shift to wanting a cleaner world, we want EVs, we want to be able to do this because governments are pushing it. We want sustainability. We think about a more circular world.

How is all of that, this autonomous world, where we’re looking at EVs? How are vehicles going to be available for everyone? Because we know we have talked about location, pricing. We really have to think about things. How is that going to make it more equitable? I mean, when we really think about this, this is more than just a little bit of a problem. It’s a really big problem, when we think about society in general. How does Microsoft look at this challenge that’s facing us right now?

Bzeih: Totally. I would say I would take this in two parts.

Smedley: That’s pretty good if you can only take it in two parts.

Bzeih: You have to like small bites. So, the start was sustainability, which is top of mind for everyone. So, this is important to every corporation, every entity, every firm; the carbon footprint, what that does to the environment.

And I can assure you that, if you asked me, what is the top thing that someone thinks about at a given corporation, doesn’t matter what industry it is. Sustainability always wins, in terms of being top of mind. And so, from a Microsoft perspective, we’ve taken this very seriously, and we’re working very diligently on creating the platform and the technology that supports the sustainability efforts at all of our customers.

So, think of the whole budgeting of carbon, and taking account of the carbon emissions, and creating the whole platform for it. We started that effort. We’re on a good trajectory there. We’re working very closely with customers on some pilots. And so, we are definitely invested here.

On the second part, in terms of electrification, we see that obviously, after the announcements made by companies, and even countries, that we’re headed down that path of electrification. We want to be enablers, whether it’s on the vehicle side with our technologies or whether on the infrastructure side with our technologies. Think of all enabling technologies that we can provide, in terms of the platform, or the desk tools or the tool chain that needs to deliver these products to life.

Because at the end of the day, we need these vehicles or products to be affordable. And also working very closely, we announced a data deal with Arrival, which is a company that has started this micro-factory process to provide electric vehicles at scale. And so we are, and like I said, we act as an enabler, and we tend to look at the ecosystem pragmatically. We don’t compete and we try to see how we can solve problems of our customers, whether it’s OEMs, tier ones, mobility service providers, and that’s the approach that we’ve taken, and we continue to take. And so that’s kind of where we are in our strategy.

Smedley: Henry, do we really have to go beyond just looking at the vehicle, we have to look at things like charging locations, and infrastructure, and batteries, and put people’s mind at ease that they’re not going to blow up and start fires. I mean, that’s what people imagine, and no different than a traditional fuel car, a battery car charging.

Do we have to get people to realize that all the same problems we have today are the same problems you’re going to have with EVs? Do we have to do those kinds of awareness campaigns as well, with consumers?

Bzeih: We definitely do. If you look at what’s happening in the news, and some of the latest news we have around that situation, I would say safety is always going to come first. Our goal is everyone’s goal should be zero fatalities, zero emissions. It’s the zero game. So we’re supportive of that. We believe in that, and definitely, I would say that is a, how should I say, growing pain that we’re going through as an industry in terms of taking new technology that we’re trying to perfect.

And it takes time as an industry and the intention is there and everyone is working very diligently on achieving that. So, it is a journey. We will get there. So, this is what we’re seeing is that growing pain during the process.

Smedley: There’s some interesting things though. Growing pains yes, it seems like things have been truly propelled. The omnichannel experiences are playing a really big role, I’d say critical role, in the journey and helping customers I think be more efficient with predictive recommendations and even transform vehicles.

Do find that right now? I mean, the way they’re marketed, sold, I mean, we’re home, but it just seems like right now it’s this digital first context. I mean, when we look at it all, it’s just, the pandemic has just evolved everything so fast and in every vertical, if we look at, but if you look at it right now, we look at automotive, it’s just truly transformed, I don’t want to say overnight, but it’s really transformed. Would you agree?

Bzeih:  transformed regionally, I would say. It’s the biggest opportunity for transformation, I would say as well, because the whole notion of having to think about the vehicle today, we’ve come a long way. … There’s quite a bit of digital access available to you if you were someone who was looking to be in the market for a vehicle, whether it’s to lease, whether it’s to buy, even a subscription. Some of those models are starting to take place.

There’s quite a bit of that and even we as an industry during the pandemic have short-cut a lot of that physical requirement for a person to be engaged on a transaction with a dealer. And some of these dealers, some of them I know very well. Personal friendships that you basically can do the whole transaction, and someone will come in and deliver the vehicle to you, sign the paperwork at home. But there’s still that element of signing the papers and getting the loan approved. It could take an hour or two.

Smedley: Not to interrupt you Henry, when have you ever been able to purchase a car, it’s only taken you an hour? I want to know when that happened, because in my lifetime it’s never happened. I’m just saying.

Bzeih: It’s an area of opportunity. The whole experience really it’s in major need of reform technologically, or maybe there’s some other elements that are preventing it from entering that, but I can tell you from a regional perspective, if we take China, in China, for example, you could, on an app, go to a kiosk that has vehicles and release a vehicle for two, three days without seeing any human being, by the way. This is all done digitally.

You take that vehicle for two, three days, and after two or three days, if you decide to buy it, you can do the whole thing digitally. In the U.S. we have examples of some OEMs that you can do that with, but it is an opportunity, I think, for us to find ways. I’m not saying we should replace a dealer.

I’m not advocating that at all but there’s got to be new ways of conducting business so that way we are at par or on par with the rest of the world, in terms of our digital experience, when it comes to automotive.

Smedley: That’s very excellent point you raised. And I know I was only teasing you about how long it takes to purchase a car, but the interesting thing, even a few years ago, subscription services in the car, we’re just forbidden. People absolutely were opposed to them. And think about them now. You just raised that point.

We’ve come a long way to even consider that as the average consumer, but even now to think about that, to think about where we are, we know that safety is foremost on everyone’s mind, but we still haven’t gotten to that point where consumers are not yet, even during the pandemic, we had more deaths because of driver distraction during the pandemic than ever.

So, there’s still a lot to go that the average consumer doesn’t realize that they should be focusing on the road when they’re driving and it’s their responsibility, but there’s many things to be learned along the way, yet at that same point that you say, we can learn from other countries. How do we pass that knowledge that you just described here?

Because there’s offering so many products and services that can be delivered in the vehicle now, today that can show us. We have the data. The data’s there, and you you’ve talked about that right now.

Bzeih: I would say collaboration is the best approach. Definitely anytime you have a problem, and you want to come up with a solution, the solution has to come part of the collaborative effort of all involved.

And so, to me, collaboration and working with others and finding a compromise that fits a win-win for everyone is the approach that I recommend and anything that is transformational. But to come in and just come in, change everything, I mean, first of all, that doesn’t work and that will never work in my opinion.

You do need that level of collaboration and working together and see how on all sides of the equation, everyone is working together toward the goal, is like, “How do we make this better? How do we make this either a better experience or safer, or what have you?” So, it is complex, but to me, that’s the approach that I would recommend as the best.

Smedley: Are those abilities to look at the information you’ve just described, for connected field service, cloud connected business productivity tools, all of that information, is that how we’re going to do it seeing better scenarios that we’re able to help dealerships do things better, faster, predictive?

I think anytime we have predictive performance realtime abilities, is that what we’re talking about? Because I just see, you know way better than I do, but I just see the possibilities are endless for what dealers can do to be able to respond to customers and be more proactive, instead of reactive with all this information, you just described.

Bzeih: It’s a great opportunity in that space. And it is about those tools that you mentioned are considered to be enablers, but there’s definitely something even beyond that, which is connecting all the dots. So, if you think about it from a dealership perspective, now there’s something called DMS, which is a dealership management system.

These are kind of native to these dealers and you have a bunch of vendors you can pick from, and in some cases that EMS system is independent of the OEM system ERP system or whatever system that the OEM is using for data.

And it’s loosely, coupled, I would say on best. And so, to me, in that process, you lose something. You lose that continuity and that digital feedback loop I was referring to earlier. The other aspect to tie it all together is the software-defined vehicle I mentioned earlier, which is once that vehicle is sold or leased or no longer in the possession of the retailer, the dealer, then it’s like, “Hey, you got a three-year warranty and have a nice day.”

And then the whole CRM process takes over. Aftermarket, after sales, all that good stuff, “Hey, you want an extended warranty?” that’s the extent of it, but a connected vehicle or a software-defined vehicle gives you that link that is deeply needed to continue that relationship with that customer as long as that customer is with that vehicle and even beyond.

And so, you get information of course, after opt-in, that can help that customer whether it’s on the vehicle relationship management side, whether it was on the CRM side, if you have the right dots connected, you could really create to that customer, a customer intimacy approach, just in terms of anticipating being proactive.

That’s what customers want. They don’t want to think too much. They want you to be proactive for them, to give them basically the answers before they have to ask the questions. And to me, whoever figures that out, wins. And we have examples of that today in our company, which I’m going to mention who, but who do that very well. And so, to me, it’s very important to solve that riddle.

Smedley: Where do you cross that line of being proactive, being big brother?

Bzeih: No, totally. I say anything that is done in that factor has to be done with very clear upfront, if you will declarations. Just say, “Hey if we can collect this data, we can help you here. This is the value you will get.” And that’s an opt-in process. It’s not a random, obviously or behind the scenes kind of thing. It’s got to be done full transparency that, “We’re collecting this data with your approval because down the road we feel we can give you X, Y, and Z.”

To me, that’s fundamental. That’s step zero in the process. If that step zero in the process is not there, then forget it. None of this will work. It would be, like you said, like you mentioned, those adjectives for that type of process and I totally agree with you in terms of that, but full transparency is extremely important, and accountability and transparency are step zero for anything related to this.

Smedley: Looking ahead, the technology that you’re seeing, we’ve talked about HoloLens, because that gives us this virtual reality, mixed reality, the ability to see things, train, give us the ability to do things in innovation, and I think that’s what we’re talking about.

What other trends are you seeing? I mean, you’ve talked about some customer successes. Are there customers and partners that you’re seeing that are taking innovation like this really to the next level that says, “Look, this is going to take us beyond the boundaries that we can’t even imagine, but yet it is starting to happen. It’s really exciting.”

Bzeih: I would say, the biggest shift I see in the industry is that OEMs, traditional OEMs are evolving. I want to mention that very clearly. Everyone’s figured out that they need to evolve. And evolve from traditional metal stamping approach, park approach to services approach.

So every, every OEM almost has a mobility strategy in place. They’ve invested in AV and AD startups and also starting to think about commercial. And we’re talking about fleet, we’re talking about mobility-as-a-service. And so, to me, that is a major shift. We’re not quite at scale yet, but it’s a major shift in the way a traditional OEM is thinking. “How do I reinvent myself?”

We talk about how some of these companies are changing the entire organization completely, from functional, like chassis body, powertrain, to software, hardware, vehicle, for example, right? Everybody’s changing the way they are functioning because they anticipate that these trends and disruptions need to be met head-on.

You can’t just think, “Okay, this is going to go away. We’re going to continue doing business as usual.” So that’s one thing. And that’s also affecting the tier ones indirectly because the tier ones now are in this role of, “Oh, wait a minute. I used to be a full-service supplier where the OEM would come to me with their spec and I make widgets for them.”

But the OEMs changed their approach. Now they’re talking directly to the silicon companies, they’re developing hardware and working with CM and EMS companies. They’re acquiring software capability. They’re trying to do everything in house. They want to orchestrate the whole thing and that is a direct threat to the tier one, and their role.

And then the third dimension is the new entrant. I mentioned the likes of Arrival. I mentioned the likes of these EV companies are coming in and, in some cases, demanding high market cap, once they go public, because people think that these companies are poised to win.

Now, we’re not going to declare winners yet, but certainly there’s another dimension that needs to be thought about. And these companies are digital natives in my mind. They’re coming in with this mentality of, similar to what is in consumer electronics, this whole notion of innovation and then a whole legacy culture to deal with.

And then the third dimension is this whole notion of these mobility service innovators. Think of ride hailing, ride sharing companies who didn’t exist a decade ago and now they’re huge part of transportation. It is certainly very dynamic what’s happening in this space. Look into what we see and it’s incredible in terms of how that is happening, but I don’t want to, like I said, say one area or one player has an advantage over the other.

I think all these players will have the market, the market is there and there’ll be winners. And so, for sure, we see that as an opportunity to work with all of them.

Smedley: And I think you’re correct in saying that there can’t just be one. And what we’ve learned over the years by looking how things go, it’s all about collaboration. It’s all about partners working together because there’s never just one winner that comes out. If they don’t partner, they’re bound to fail. Is that what we’re seeing in this whole long stretch of what we’re seeing in the automotive space?

Bzeih: Totally. It’s about collaboration and working together. I mean, this to me is so fundamental and we need to have a pragmatic approach. And the pragmatic approach is to find where the opportunity is for a win-win. And then we’ve seen examples of that. We’ve seen traditional OEMs invest in new entrants. We’ve seen OEMs invest in mobility innovators.

So, what does that say? That says that the ecosystem is primed for that collaboration, M&As filling the gaps with one’s capability and complimenting the other. I think that the potential there for success is huge, and like I said earlier, I’m not betting on one player. I think all players will win and they all will have a market, but I think they’re better together. I really do.

Smedley: And do we have to really make the case they have to be customer-centric, and they have to think about sustainability? If they don’t, they’re not going to win. If they think that they cannot look at what the future holds that way, they will not be successful?

Bzeih: I’m a firm believer, 150% in, and that sounds like a cliche, but I really truly believe that you always start with the customer, you work backwards. So, without that mentality, without that customer intimacy, without that mindset, to me, it comes down to that. Because at the end of the day, why are we in this business? So, consumers can, have that journey, for goods to have the journey. It’s about that.

It’s about movement of people and moving goods. But if we don’t do it in a customer centric manner, some will fail and some will win. Whoever figures that part out well, will have an advantage over the other. I firmly believe in the customer experience as being fundamental to any business, especially this business.

Smedley: We look right now at the supply chain. We’ve talked about, the supply chain has really done some tough things to the automotive market, but it’s not when we want to really focus on right now, but when we look at that whole customer-centric approach that you just talked about, I think right now, when we talk about the offerings and the products and the services we talk about all these things going forward, the biggest trend I think we have to look at are the big mega trends.

Are they’re still going to be big mega trends in 2022-2023 that you think that will be even more surprising than when we saw that hit us, that we should have not been surprised by, by the pandemic?

Bzeih: Well, I would definitely not bet against surprises because this-

Smedley: Disruption, huh?

Bzeih: No. I mean, I would never… Hey, I’m an engineer by training and so I would have to hedge my bets, but I would say, it’s definitely, we don’t know yet that we’ve figured everything out yet. From what we know, I can tell you this. I can tell you that we’re definitely headed down the path of electrification.

That’s going to happen. I can tell you that as a fact. I can tell you in autonomous, we are on a journey, and I know there’s some reality setting in terms of the level five. It’s a little bit of a, still of a dream. Level four and things like that. So, there’s a journey there. We’re working our way there.

The one part I would say, I personally would share with you, I feel that there’s still a disruptive element that is still coming our way, and it goes back to that journey discussion I mentioned. Because you think about, at the end of the day when vehicle ownership or the whole notion of people questioning the whole experience, like, “Why am I doing this? Why am I making this investment?”

That emotional element of the vehicle itself and what it means for us as customers morphing into like, “It’s a utility. I just need to get from point A to point B. How do I get there the most effective way?”

And so you can start to think about companies or tech companies or any innovative company thinking about the whole journey element, how to package that as part of a service portfolio and focus on that aspect because if someone doesn’t care, whether they own a vehicle or not, or what color it is or what gadgets it has, and all they want to do is, “Hey, deliver me from this, to this seamlessly.”

And if someone can do that, then to me, that’s the additional surprise and disruption that can take place. I mean, I have some ideas which I cannot share on this, on this call but-

Smedley: We’re very open to those sharing Henry, but I mean, are you saying the younger generation has proved because we have Lyft, we have Uber, that they don’t need to own vehicles?

Bzeih: Yeah.

Smedley: Is more disruption going to be that way, because EVs are going to say, “Look, they’re going to disrupt it even more and less and less we’ll own and EVs are going to make it even easier because of that. Because we can connect them to the infrastructure, and we can make that even more possible and more unique ways.” I think that’s what you’re telling me. I just heard you say that in-between. I read in-between the line.

Bzeih: I envision a future in which that we can say, I don’t know when, I envision a future in which the movement of people specifically is going to be part of a service rather than a product. I’d envision that. Now would it be a totalitarian, like everybody would do that? No, but I would definitely see a market in which, in the future, the…

And we are there today, but I’m talking about something even beyond what we see today with Uber and Lyft. Something more.

Smedley: Something bigger, more connected, more mobility that is connected in a bigger way than we’ve ever dreamed in a city.

Bzeih: Exactly. In the city. Especially in the city.

Smedley: Urban and rural. Both urban and rural connecting everyone.

Bzeih: Totally.

Smedley: Very cool. I mean, that’s really the way it should be so that we’re not leaving, we’re not leaving the disenfranchised out. That is what you just described.

Bzeih: Oh, totally. I think there’s a great opportunity for those who are that by maybe by these legacy elements that we live in. I think that the future is bright actually and the industry itself is really going to be dynamic and exciting. It’s going to create whole new entrants, whole new ideas, new and innovative thinking and I am a firm believer in better on everyone today who was involved and also there’ll be new ones entering, but I’m bullish on the industry of course.

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