Life is changing. By 2050, 70% of the people on earth will live in cities.

Urban mobility is now the hot topic, and this is not just simply the ability to be mobile, it means so much more. UN Habitat, the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, states that “mobility should not only be a matter of developing transport infrastructure and services. It has to overcome the social, economic, political, and physical constraints of movement.”

For automotive companies this shift demonstrates a change in the social contract with urban citizens. No longer is it enough to manufacture and sell vehicles - companies must enable ‘mobility’ in its wider context. We can see this shift as a move towards community based services that help citizens overcome multiple ‘constraints’, such as isolation or financial exclusion.

The service economy

The service economy is proving popular amongst the renting and leasing millennial generation. In a clever project which appeals to both the commercial rationale and also a social need, Bosch have developed their Coup e-scooter offering - delivering an environmentally friendly, cheap, sharing economy solution to mobility in Berlin.

In addition the highly successful Autolib car sharing scheme in Paris and across other French cities by Bolloré has given urban dwellers an efficient way of travelling. These examples not only highlight opportunities to enrich lives through mobility but also demonstrate potential threats - there is new competition in town addressing pressing social needs, not just traditional automotive companies.


Mobility and modern cities 1440x490

Addressing urban development

Another interesting new addition to the market is Vehicle-To-Grid (V2G) technologies (essentially vehicles with the ability to communicate directly with the power grid to either sell or demand electricity when in need or excess). This technology allows a more equitable flow of energy within cities and helps to alleviate spikes in demand. Both Nissan and Honda are spearheading the roll out of V2G tech to the public. The recycling of clean energy will also help to keep air pollution down, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels to provide back-up energy during blackouts.

So, there is obviously a new burgeoning market developing from the idea of mobility and modern cities. McKinsey analysis indicates that in 50 metropolitan areas around the world, home to 500 million people, integrated mobility systems could produce valuable benefits, such as improved safety and reduced pollution, worth up to $600 billion. This is an astonishing amount and arises from a combination of commercial innovation and social benefit.

So, how can we ensure that the rise in urban development also addresses the increasing urgency of mobility? Companies must view themselves in the round as agents of mobility, and inclusivity must sit at the heart of it. With population booming in cities, automotive companies need to ensure that they contribute to diverse types of transport; providing affordable options; ensuring accessibility; making sure that services are relevant and culturally sensitive. All of a sudden mobility is not just a modern label for auto manufacturing, it is a purpose.


No-one left behind?

So, with all of this fast-paced, exciting urban innovation, are we keeping an eye on the most vulnerable in society? Are we making sure that no-one is left behind?

The Deloitte Urban Mobility Index rates London, for example, as exemplary in terms of vision and strategy but poorly for affordability and air quality. Affordability has a huge impact on the most vulnerable in London society – the ability to travel for work, healthcare appointments, childcare, school and much more. With the adult pay gap between wealthy and poor in the UK widening, the automotive industry have the potential to think innovatively and work with charities and civil society organisations to address challenges whilst carving out new markets.

Mastercard have recognised these new challenges and opportunities. Their “Smart Cities” initiative plays to both social and business development agendas. Mastercard understand the wider implication of their services, the disadvantage individuals are at if they can’t access them, and the safety concerns that cash brings. They are in a position of power and, crucially, have the ability to improve lives by working through their products and services. They understand that business alignment is key to generating impact.

Understanding the needs of a modern, urbanised society will be key to future proofing business models. To understand perspectives on the ground, and reshape products and services which deal with newly evolving challenges, progressive businesses are forging partnerships with charities. Charities have a deep understanding of critical societal issues and can envisage problems on the horizon. These insightful partnerships help build resilient companies and resilient communities. A great example of this is the partnership between L&G and Shelter. L&G work with the homeless charity to better understand the impact of their contracts on private tenants – helping keep people housed and helping maintain customers.

The need for automotive companies to view themselves as embedded within society, rather than just selling into it, is essential for sustainable profit generation in the long term and for better social, economic, political and physical mobility in a modern world. Corporate philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and charity partnerships can give invaluable insights into social challenges, helping companies to direct innovation to solve these needs, open new markets, and access new customers.

CAF Give As You Earn sign up CTA

CAF Give As You Earn


Access our CAF Give As You Earn toolkit to manage and grow your Payroll Giving scheme.

Get the toolkit