Does Uber need to watch its back? Last week we heard that London cabbies were changing tactics and looking to improve their service rather than focusing on berating the ride-hailing app. Now Jaguar Land Rover has announced the launch of ‘a new tech start-up’, which it says will build innovative apps and on-demand services, including testing out car sharing in the coming months.
The unit, InMotion, is working with former Google employees and JLR has indicated it won’t shy away from splashing the cash to fuel technological developments. It’s another sign the automotive industry isn’t taking the likes of Uber lightly and is making efforts both to keep pace and potentially lead the way on future innovation.
You may well say JLR is late to the party when it comes to car sharing, what with BlaBlaCar, Liftshare and Uber among those offering the service. But with vehicle ownership falling among young people in cities, carmakers have been assessing where they can fit into the market. General Motors took a stake in taxi-hailing app Lyft and bought driverless tech group Cruise, while Daimler and BMW have both launched car-sharing services in America.
And JLR does have significant financial clout behind it, not to mention brand power, so not being the first to something isn't overly important. There’s also an acknowledgement from the firm of the need to listen to customers’ growing expectations. Adrian Hallmark, group strategy director at JLR, said, ‘As a start-up business, InMotion combines the flexibility and pace needed to compete in the ever-changing mobility sector. It allows us to react quickly to new tech and ever-changing customer demands.’
The launch of its own ‘start-up’ also marks a concerted effort to have the best of both worlds – the investment and brand power of JLR, coupled with the nimbleness of a new business. Whether it’ll work remains to be seen, but JLR can hardly be accused of being a fusty old carmaker refusing to adapt. It's been confident in chucking investment where it sees fit, such as the £1bn factory being unveiled in Slovakia. It has also experimented with developments such as a remote control 4x4 and been heavily involved with the government’s plans to increase the UK’s standing when it comes to driverless cars.
As the recent self-driving truck project involving six European companies (Volvo, Scandia, Daimler, Iveco, DAF and MAN) showed, it's not just smaller start-ups that want – and need – to be involved in future disruption. Nobody wants to get left behind in the race to stay relevant.