Dustin Krause’s automotive career has been focused on the future of vehicles.
He started with Tesla and now is director of e-Mobility at Volkswagen North America in its ambitious bid to become the global electric vehicle market leader by 2025. Krause led the recent launch of VW’s ID.4 EV entry at a time when people are planning their return to commuting and when awareness of sustainability and gasoline shortages have been top of mind. When he thinks What the Future, he’s focused on making people’s commutes more intuitive, efficient and productive whenever they drive.
Kate MacArthur: As we enter a new culture of hybrid work, how will that affect how people think about using and owning a personal vehicle?
Dustin Krause: If we continue down a hybrid work model, it’s really getting people to think, “OK, what does this mean for me in terms of a living situation, too?” As the tech and automotive sectors advance electrification, and autonomy develops further, I think that will only solidify people’s choices to reconsider whether they’re living in the city or out. If you’re in the city, the idea of owning a car could very much change. You’re using a ride-share service or something else like that. If you want to live 100 miles away from work, you’ll have the ability to use that time when you’re in the car, if you have full autonomy.
MacArthur: How far out are we from that now?
Krause: It really is a question of when, not if, Level 5 [full] autonomy will come. You just need to get to the full range of services around the vehicle like electrification, the sensing suite that enables the car to understand the world around it, processing power and some hive data collection. But that will certainly change the landscape of the way people use the ownership model of cars. Of course, the biggest of all of them is likely the safety of vehicles, too. Cars become orders of magnitude more safe for your morning commute.
MacArthur: Our recent surveys show some people expect that they will drive more and want to work remotely at least partially, going forward. How are you planning for drivers who will be living two different lifestyles?
Krause: Customers are looking for ways to be more sustainable, too. If now is the time to move to this new powertrain technology with electrification, we know that a huge amount of folks are on the fence. They’ve been thinking about it for a while. If you’re going to drive, you want a car that’s the next generation of technology.
MacArthur: As we move to a hybrid work situation, will consumers want to own or rent more?
Krause: As new technologies come out, usually buyers have some trepidation about fully adopting them. But even looking at the current model and lease rates, we’re finding that it mirrors the relationship between purchasing and leasing that we have now for internal combustion engines.
We’ve seen some companies come out that have tried different kinds of shared models and other things. None of them are really taking off in a big way yet. But with the advancement of some technology in the actual product, you might see that connectivity and autonomy and electrification actually unlock that ability and will make it a lot easier to do.
MacArthur: There’ve been different articles about people downsizing the number of their cars because they weren’t expecting to drive as much. How does that factor into how you plan for future demand?
Krause: Cars are one of those items that do wear. Over time, people decide to upgrade and do other things. But the question that people are asking now as they upgrade is “Am I going to get an internal combustion car or am I going to get an EV?” We’re seeing a cycle start to happen where customers are saying that it is now the time. And if not, almost certainly the next time I buy, I’m going to go with an EV because it’s so certain that this is the emerging technology.
MacArthur: We’ve seen municipalities move restaurant dining into parking areas to keep restaurants operating during the pandemic. How will that change what people need from their cars to accommodate more closed streets?
Krause: If we look at the really long term, where cars have become very autonomous and change the world as we know it, cars could potentially be in a fleet and constantly working, right? Things like these huge parking lots and other things just may not be as needed.
MacArthur: I would imagine that cities are talking to automakers and other transportation organizations. Are all the prior urban plans being rewritten now that we’ve had this major disruption to the future? What’s going to happen there?
Krause: Look at 2025 and 2030 as important tipping points as we start to see a lot of the investments from both our own company, and then other companies really start to come into fruition. Generally, municipalities and governments will lag a little bit behind technology and adoption. Likely we’re going to see a lot of these things come to fruition within this decade.
MacArthur: What will that mean then for the future of car culture? Given that the pandemic changed how we think about our actual living rooms, did the same thing happen with cars that we now consider our mobile living rooms?
Krause: I think it did. But the thing that people are looking to change is that the next car that they buy will be an electric vehicle. Everyone’s going to, especially over the next five years and then a little bit longer. We’ll be married to even more technology in the vehicle.