BVRLA Fleet Tech Congress

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At the beginning of July I was lucky enough to attend the BVRLA Fleet Tech Congress at the HQ of Williams F1 in Grove, Oxfordshire

I was there to see Chris the Automotive Director here at Clarity deliver his talk about Big Data, but it was a really interesting day from both a casual observers point of view, but also as someone deeply interested in the future of mobility.

The rental and leasing sector that the BVRLA represents stands right at the epicentre of the coming paradigm shift so many are predicting in mobility.

This manifested itself in a recurring theme throughout the day, for although called the Fleet Tech Congress and divided into 4 sections covering a variety of topics from powertrains to insurance, almost all the speakers were preoccupied with the same topic – data.

Recurring questions and in some case debates about –

Who owns it?

Who has access to it?

What level of access?

Who decides who should have what level of access to it?

And so on.

The tone was set from the outset by BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney who presented the results of The BVRLA’s Fleet Technology Survey 2017, a headline stat - 86% of members were not prepared to pay manufacturers for vehicle data, which puts it’s members in direct conflict with the aims of the OEM’s

Many of the OEM’s have identified data services as a new revenue stream and some have already developed portals that require payment such as BMW’s CarData portal.

This particular sticking point was later elaborated on again by Neil Pattemore, the Technical Director at FIGIEFA; an organization that represents the interests of independent aftersales garages across Europe. The OEM’s attitude to continued free access to OBD or On Board Diagnostic data is crucial to independent garages worldwide. FIGIEFA are lobbying the EU to try and ensure continued unfettered access, but with the OEM’s jostling for position on the mobility start line, securing their own data and relationship with customers is a key objective – I’m not entirely sure how this will play out but it’ll be interesting to watch from the side-lines.

Ashley Winton, a Partner at Paul Hastings LLP managed to take the impeding introduction of the new, tighter data protection rules or GDPR, which is no laughing matter, and deliver one of the funniest talks of the day. The crux of his recommendations was that it’s unlikely anyone will be completely compliant on day one, but you need to do the things that are most visible first. The potential fines for not complying are incredibly significant so it’s important that businesses of all sizes do their research ahead of the change next year.

Outside the topic of data, I particularly enjoyed Professor Neville Jackson from Ricardo talk on Powertrains. As much as I love classic combustion engine cars, I have believed for many years the future is electric. Professor Jackson acknowledged that electric will have a significant role to play. He also raised some incredibly valid points about the infrastructure required for such a future, and called into question just how environmentally friendly Lithium Ion technology actually is. He thinks it more likely that a hybrid of electric and hydrogen may prove cheaper, more effective and less polluting overall.

Coming back to data, Edward Kulperger the VP of Geotab in Europe showed what could be done with the data that so many in the audience are desperate to harness. Geotab have put together a little dashboard that reveals the most dangerous day to drive in each US state based on data from the date, the number of accidents and the severity of those accidents.

This was a simple demonstration of a ‘Big Data’ approach, i.e. taking multiple data points and analysing them to drive a true insight. In the marketing world, the term is bandied about frequently but very few companies are actually using data intelligently to inform their businesses strategy or direction. This was the subject of the talk Chris gave, the central idea being that it’s not about collecting more and more data for the sake of it, but about how you use it. What we as marketers and you as businesses are really looking for is ‘Big Insights’ not ‘Big Data’.

You can view Chris' talk here:

The day finished with a tour of the Frank Williams Gallery containing many priceless F1 cars driven by some of the most famous names in the history of motorsport such as Aryton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and current world champion Nico Rosberg.

Overall I was impressed by the BVRLA’s approach - potential disruption can be dealt with by incumbent companies in many different ways, but I think they should be commended for not shying away from asking the difficult questions about what impact this change will have on their members businesses. I hope I get to go again next year to see what progress they have made.