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Ex-GM Boss Bob Lutz Thinks Autonomous Vehicles Will Be the End of Car Brands

It's not Bob Lutz's fault he keeps getting things wrong, it's the media's for asking for his opinion. The former GM Vice Chairman has proven countless times that his views on the automotive world are as up to date as my grandfather's tie, and yet he keeps popping up in the news.
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After telling us how bad and useless electric cars are and how they will never catch on, Mr. Lutz is back with another vision of the future, this time related to self-driving cars. No, he doesn't think they are bad, useless and will never catch on, but he does fear they will render car brands obsolete.

In the long term, automotive brands are gone,” he said, according to Automotive News. “If you get on a city bus or an airplane, do you care who made it? There won’t be anything left to car brands in 20 years.” There is some truth to what he says, but I doubt it's going to be this drastic in just 20 years.

Car manufacturers have indeed based most of their selling proposition on the way their products drive. Handling, acceleration, cornering ability - they've all been at the forefront of automobile advertising for years. Once the driver is relegated to the backseat and an AI takes care of the vehicle's commands, all that suddenly becomes irrelevant.

That may be true, but brands have long started building on other aspects of their personalities. For instance, some pride themselves with the smoothness of the ride they offer, while others claim to make the best interiors. The design will always play a big role in people's choice of a car, and brands will continue to have their own identities.

It's true that by losing this lever of the way the cars actually drive - which carried a lot of emotional weight - the manufacturers will be deprived of an important tool. However, it will definitely not be the end of car brands. After all, even with airplanes and buses, as Lutz says, you would go for a Mercedes-Benz coach instead of a Mitsubishi one if given a choice, wouldn't you?

If anything, the real hardship will fall on the shoulders of the advertising agencies who will have to come up with new ways of capturing the essence of a brand and making it look attractive to the public.

The real threat doesn't come directly from self-driving vehicles, but what this technology will mean for the idea of car ownership. With car sharing becoming more and more popular, your relationship with your vehicle will indeed dilute, which will make choosing one lose its importance. However, it'll be some time before our relationship with the vehicles that drive us will resemble the one we have now with our socks.

 

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