With BMW showing off their Vision Next 100 concept in March, and the in-your-face overstatement Rolls-Royce 103EX continuing the theme yesterday, it was easy to overlook the Mini Vision Next 100 that was also shown in London yesterday. While the BMW is focused on driving, and the Rolls is focused on luxury, the Mini is focused on the shared economy model. It's looking at a future where car sharing is the norm. But that doesn't mean that everyone drives the same car. Sort of. You drive the same car, but it morphs according to the wishes of each person who borrows it.
The trick for car-makers in a car sharing world is to maintain a brand image when ownership is devalued. A car becomes a commodity, like Kleenex versus "facial tissue". Dr Ian Robertson, BMW board member suggests a car that could re-skin itself between borrowers. The cars would know what you want for suspension settings, or radio presets. Holger Hampf, head of user experience for BMW suggests "we could easily turn it into a John Cooper Works if that's what you prefer." The car also uses materials that will change with age like brass, and porous wood. The aging of the materials suggests a personality to each car, and provides something tangible. Aged brass looking much better after three years than a scuffed and scratched iPhone.
Their ideal of a shared car that is still yours is nothing short of ambitious. The job for the marketers is almost as much of a challenge as for the engineers. This concept car knows your schedule, it knows what you like. It has a display they call the Cooperizer that shows your configuration, changes colour to talk to you, and lets you change everything on the fly. Even the power levels. They've even added a trick Inspire Me button that could be setup to send you on a fun drive, show you art from an exhibition you've seen recently, or even change the configuration to one provided by a friend. Of the three concepts BMW has shown, this may be the most pie in the sky.