The auto industry’s ‘iPhone moment’

The bosses of Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are meeting with ministers in Berlin today to discuss the end of diesel cars and the disaster that the industry brought on itself. Ironically, the meeting more or less coincides with the hoopla over the delivery of the first Tesla Model 3 ‘affordable’ electric vehicles in the US. There’s a 400,000-long waiting list for this car, which means that if you placed an order (and paid the $1,000 deposit) you’ll probably have to wait two years before delivery. But if you want a nice VW, BMW or Mercedes diesel model, well any dealer will be happy to offer one by lunchtime, and maybe even give you a good price. Writing in today’s Financial Times, John Gapper wonders if the automobile industry is suddenly experiencing its own ‘iPhone moment’.

Good question, to which I suspect that the answer is “yes”. It’s not the manufacturer that matters most, it’s the technology. The significance of the iPhone in 2007 was that it was the first real smartphone. The significance of the Model 3 is not that it’s a Tesla but that it’s a working electric car with a decent range that many people can afford.