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An interview with Patrick Fruth: The digital transformation is not just a momentary short-term phenomenon

Diverse digital developments arose at TÜV SÜD. If the problems of the entire automotive industry can be resolved by these, what else needs to be done? Patrick Fruth, CEO of the TÜV SÜD Mobility Division, talks about the current situation.

An interview with Patrick Fruth: The digital transformation is not just a short-term digital flash in the pan

The technological transformation is forcing the automotive industry to reorientate. From September, the Future Workshop 4.0 should offer real help. What is TÜV SÜD’s role in this?

P. Fruth: The project will be established by the University for Economics and the Environment’s Institute of the Automotive Industry (IfA). It should provide a platform for researching and presenting new technologies and services for the economy, science and industry associations. TÜV SÜD will present itself here as the exclusive technology partner in the field of digitalising test, assessment and remarketing services, like e.g. digital image recognition and will keep evolving. It enables us to test out future technologies for focused information transfer via digital information and communication media in customer interaction. The aims are lean processes, cost savings and, ultimately, the sustainable protection of jobs in the motor vehicle industry. To summarise: Supported by a scientific approach, we are there where the industry experts are to acquire direct feedback - this ensures the development of the right products and speed.

Electrified drives will become the new reality in the trade. How does TÜV SÜD want to position itself in the future to support car dealerships and garages?

P. Fruth: The electrified drive is not really anything new to TÜV SÜD. We have been supporting the industry with this for many years with tests for traction batteries in our laboratories, approving elements in the charging infrastructure and high voltage training courses for staff. We have been conducting the general inspection of electric vehicles for several years. However, what is new is the continuously increasingly demand for and the sales of these vehicles. In the medium term, this will lead to a growing supply of electric used vehicles. These need to be accurately priced for marketing. Technically, we are working on efficient tests on used battery systems, to be able to make a valid statement regarding the core element of electric vehicles. Linked to this is the possibility of a battery certificate, which provides the used car buyer with a clear assessment report, thus ensuring greater peace of mind.

What mix of innovation and tradition do you envisage being promising for dealerships in the future?

P. Fruth: The marketing of used cars, and new cars too, is becoming increasingly digital from one year to the next. Nowadays, customers gather information in greater detail via digital media before shortlisting a vehicle. Dealers who are not appropriately positioned will get left behind. TÜV SÜD supports the business in the area of marketing with various tools to position their stock attractively on the web. Examples include digital solutions like BlueNOW!, a pre-assessment e.g. for lease returns or PhotoFairy, an image tool for professional used car photos. Using the Blue Digital Index, trading companies can check how well they are positioned digitally and how they are found on the web. The tool also provides valuable tips on how the digital relevance of the dealer’s page can be improved. However, despite every innovation, buying a car will always be an experience for all senses. Particularly in the premium sector, buyers also want to touch the car and have a test drive. This is not possible via a screen. A personal appointment in the car showroom will, therefore, continue to be important.

In the accident and claims business, in addition to an aggressive claims management by insurance companies and fierce industry competition tax, there is also an impact due to Covid-19. How can TÜV SÜD help keeping dealerships in the lead?

P. Fruth: We cannot determine the market. The pandemic has shown how volatile the business can be and how important proficient damage assessments are. However, in every situation, the client’s expectations need to be met: to take the car to the garage and to pick it up again once it’s repaired. Everything else should be dealt with by the car dealership. However, this is not always the car dealership’s core skill. This is where TÜV SÜD comes into play. With our modularly designed solutions relating to claims management in the dealership: from an initial damage analysis via Blue Now, a neutral damage assessment by our experts and the associated communication with the opposing insurance company, right up to the digital claim file, from which the member of staff in the dealership can see the live processing status: TÜV SÜD takes on full responsibility for dealing with this, helped by its tools. The dealership can therefore focus its skills totally on repairs and sales. Thanks to TÜV SÜD, the dealership will be totally hassle-free for the client. However, with all the digital tools, personal contact is still very important, which is why we provide all the personal services in the car dealership from the claims expert to the claims manager.

The Corona crisis has still not been totally overcome yet, but the prospect is in sight. What lesson have you learned from the crisis?

P. Fruth: One thing is for certain: Corona has fast-tracked digitalisation. It’s not a short-term digital flash in the pan, but much more a case of a change in consumer behaviour. However, it has also demonstrated many creative approaches in implementing processes and employee flexibility. Much of what has been achieved in this time will be long-lasting, because it has proved itself and because it offers advantages. For example, we are working hard on our digital client platform "Mobility Service World". Just one of many examples. So, those who take action during the crisis and make the right decisions, will come out of it stronger. And: there is nothing that can replace personal contact with the customer. Digital tools have facilitated it during the crisis. There is nothing wrong with continuing to operate in this way. The skill with this is finding the right mix between the personal and the digital contact.

TÜV SÜD wants to be developing now what the industry will need in the future, with its own unit for innovations. Which issues and tools will be in practical use in car dealerships and garages in a few years?

P. Fruth: Just like in all other sectors, the time factor in the car trade will become even more important. Therefore, it is important to keep downtimes as short as possible and to get vehicle returns ready for sale as quickly as possible. Contactless, quick vehicle scans to determine the condition will therefore become increasingly important for high performing dealers. Modern vehicles amass an increasing amount of data regarding use and condition, which is then transmitted by telemetry to the manufacturer and the car dealership, thus facilitating needs-based maintenance. This leads to closer networking between vehicle and garage. Or consider the changes in the drive train from pure burner to hybrid, electrical drive and fuel cell. We are currently experiencing a technologically complex transition, pertaining to both the vehicle and the customers. It is therefore important to establish the right solutions.

What challenges do you envisage the mobility industry on an international scale?

P. Fruth: The developments in the world are very different and tailored to customer needs, but particularly the respective needs relating to the topics which are becoming increasingly important, like the growing assistance systems and autonomous driving functions and their interconnections with other vehicles and the infrastructure. With these and the new law for automated driving, it will soon be possible to supply cars which have an automation level greater than Level 2. In this regard, amongst others, the issues of cybersecurity and software updates will also become increasingly important. The UNECE-regulations R155 und R156, which have been in force internationally since spring for type approval and certification of management systems, represent the regulatory basis. Economically, we need to prepare ourselves for the next approach from manufacturers from China, who now also want to conquer the European markets. For that matter, ultimately, also the development of the drive train, which is at the forefront of passionate discussion, especially in Germany. Currently rather as a hybrid solution, but electrification is increasingly progressing, especially in Asia. The fuel cell and hydrogen will therefore become increasingly important in the next five years. Much of this seems a long way off, but the issues will keep us significantly busy over the next few years.

Copyright:AUTOHAUS

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