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The automotive industry is undergoing digital transformation at an unprecedented rate. The widely acknowledged forces driving this change include new and emerging players in the market that have a strong technology baseline and are growing at an enviable rate. Additionally, new vehicle technologies such as connected vehicle services and Autonomous drive systems are changing the face of automotive as we know it today. As a result, automotive companies are doing all they can to accelerate their digital transformation to create new differentiated and personalized experiences that will keep them happy, loyal to their brand, and open to new subscription-based emerging mobility services that will create new long-term revenue streams. The winners will be the ones who make this transformation the quickest, collect and analyze the data they need to identify new services and get them to market faster than their competitors.

Our support of the automotive industry is deeply rooted in five primary pillars of focus that help you accelerate your future of mobility. Our customers have identified these key priority scenarios as focus areas where they would like to partner with Microsoft on, and this was further reinforced during the pandemic. If you strip away the fancy titles, these pillars can be boiled down to five areas: the vehicle, the customer, operations and manufacturing, employees, and mobility services. The first four areas are all solutions that Microsoft has to accelerate your progress toward that fifth pillar of mobility services.

Accelerated vehicle innovation

The vehicle is the front-line product of the industry and the primary point of contact with consumers. It is a large component of how automotive companies are perceived in the market and by which consumers make purchasing decisions. The technology stack within the vehicle has become much more of a differentiator for modern car buyers than miles per gallon, horsepower, or many times, crash test ratings. We have come into an era where consumers are expecting a smartphone on wheels, and to fulfill on that expectation the automotive industry needs to provide a well-connected vehicle based on a software-defined platform for rapid updates, as well as new feature and services releases.

Differentiated customer experience

A critical piece of the puzzle in the evolution of emerging mobility services is proactively engaging with your customer in new, consolidated, and most importantly, personalized ways throughout your product’s lifecycle.​

With connected field service solutions, you can remotely monitor connected vehicles on the road today sold to your customer. As a result, you can get the insights you need to do predictive maintenance—minimizing your customer’s downtime and increasing their brand loyalty when it comes time to purchase their next vehicle.​

Delivering a connected vehicle also means you need to take a new, collaborative approach to the sales process to help sellers navigate your increasingly complex portfolio of products and services as well as build long-term relationships and ongoing customer loyalty.​

With connected sales and service solutions, you can empower your sellers to see the full spectrum of a customer’s needs. Sellers can analyze previous product usage and performance, and then predict potential needs using intelligent tools.​

Sellers can also collaborate with customers to customize product purchases and efficiently execute contracts using configure-price-quote, quote-to-cash, and contract lifecycle management tools. These tools can shorten the buying cycle and help the customer get precisely what’s needed. There’s also the call center of the future, where you can tap into the insights gleaned from your smart connected products to improve the effectiveness of your customer service agents using virtual agents or bots.​

Resilient operations

To adapt quickly to vehicle innovation and market fluctuation you need an agile, responsive production process. You need solutions that can help you enable a “factory of the future.” By that, I mean a complex ecosystem of self-regulating machines and sites that customize output, optimally allocate resources, and offer a seamless interface between the physical and virtual world. ​

The journey to a “factory of the future” starts with connecting factory assets—adding sensors to machines and equipment to collect data, then monitoring and adjusting operations accordingly. ​

Ultimately, you’ll want to connect and monitor factory performance across the globe, using data from smart assets to apply operational insights and further optimize your production processes.

​As you’re making more products, and delivering customized connected services along with them, your supply chain becomes ever more complex and multifaceted. You can use intelligent supply chain solutions to help you manage that complexity. A new generation of intelligent business applications can help you deliver the right products, parts, resources, and services where and when they’re needed; achieve a balance between desired customer service level and budget requirements; and enable tighter upstream and downstream collaboration across increasingly complex value chains.

Increased organization productivity

Even before the pandemic, the industry needed new skills, tools, and insights to keep up with the digital transformation and speed of business that impacts every one of the other pillars we’ll talk about. Now we take remote work, advanced engineering needs, and remote assistance of the frontline workforce as table stakes. However, there was already a skills gap in the automotive, and now there’s even more to do to get the modern workforce ready for the new normal. Increased organizational productivity requires that we use technology to attract, train, and retain the next generation workforce, equipping them with the skills to reimagine manufacturing and shape our sustainable future.

Emerging mobility services

All of these previous pillars are critical projects to complete as you evolve toward emerging mobility services.  You can use all this data coming from the connected vehicle, field services, sales, factories, and the supply chain to speed innovation and optimize production, customer experience, and profits.​

With connected product innovation solutions, you can get real-time insight into which products and features customers are using without waiting for customer survey results. And with big computing capacity available on-demand, you can iterate the next version of your product much more rapidly using digital twins, as well as simulation and analysis tools. The automotive industry is doing this on a massive scale with the data coming from their connected vehicles and fleets of specially instrumented autonomous vehicles. EFS is doing using this data to teach the next generation of vehicles how to see the real world. But any IoT connected machine provides this opportunity for a digital feedback loop.​

You can also get more accurate, timely data on which parts failed and what the best problem resolutions were so you can improve product and service performance. ​

These are just a few ways you can analyze data to realize a faster speed-to-market and improve the quality of your products and services, or product-as-a-service.​​

Microsoft will continue to support our customers and partners in this journey and look forward to seeing what the future holds for us together in partnership along the way.

Learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to the automotive industry and see how the capabilities of our solutions accelerate vehicle development, increase customer brand loyalty, empower your workforce, and drive new revenue streams for the likes of Renault, BMW, Audi, Bosch, Toyota and many more.