The vast majority of the world’s cars are pre-owned, and the sheer amount of money and interest pumping through the used car industry was symbolised in early December by a huge $50m investment made in Malaysia’s used car trading platform. Used cars are big business, and where the market goes, innovation follows. While automation and similar smart technologies were supposed to be the big news stories of 2019, instead, retrofit technology based on making older cars run like the latest digitally active vehicles has taken pride of place. A look at market forces reveals exactly why that is and what technology can be expected in the coming years.
Ease of purchase
According to green news website Green Car Congress, the most recently available figures show that used car sales outsold new by 2 to 1 throughout 2018. Furthermore, this trend was predicted to continue in 2019 and beyond. A big reason for this pattern of sales, money constraints on purchasers aside, is the amount of information made available via smart tech. When someone purchases a car today, they have a plethora of resources available to them that can provide in-depth detail on the car, the manufacturer, and the level of innovation in any given model. Comparison and review websites will collate information from across industry sources in order to give the full picture to any prospective buyer. As a result, the ease of purchase is increased.
With these easy sales comes natural interest from innovators. If consumers are finding it easier and quicker to pick up a bargain that outperforms new models, why develop for those newer models? This has extended to the likes of dashcams and black boxes, but also to exciting new technology such as Ghost. Ghost is an automation platform that the company owners promise will be able to retrofit to vehicles and command their systems. This development clearly indicates the appetite of innovators to cater for the used area of the market.
Converting combustion to green technologies
Automation is, in modern terms, a relatively simple retrofit. Far more ambitious, yet still achievable, is the Transition-One plan to convert cars from combustion engines into electric vehicles. This sounds outlandish but is completely achievable for the sum of $5,600 – which is quite low given the amount of technology invested into every electric engine and the potential savings to be made by conversion.
This technology isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. Digital Trends notes that vintage cars have long been retrofitted with electric drivers to make them roadworthy according to modern-day regulation. However, these have always been seen as niche jobs that are for specialised workshops.
The offer Transition-One have made is wholesale and can be applied to nearly any vehicle. In the long term, they are seeking to open a factory that will take older cars in as a matter of business and retrofit them for general sale on the used car market – again, another sign of the relevance of used cars and how they are continuing to shape the innovation landscape.
Older technology, new processes
As well as updating drivers to new, modern technology, there are engineers out there looking to simply make improvements to older, combustion engine based tech. In Europe, Automotive News Europe reports that Mercedes is offering to replace the exhaust filters and engines of certain older diesel vehicles. A response to the new diesel legislation moving through European Union legislative bodies, it also illustrates the amount and types of combustion vehicles in Europe that need this type of adaptation to keep up with climate change-focused technological improvements.
Automotive News Europe has noted one unique aspect of this story – whereas car manufacturers previously focused on asking people to simply buy new, more efficient cars, consumer lobby groups have successfully petitioned these auto houses to instead offer improvements. As a result, they have had to directly innovate to create these technological improvements. This again shows the interest in the consumer market for innovating towards better-used vehicles, and away from the creation of carbon-pumping new vehicles. If even the big car manufacturers are on board, this signals positively for the overall health of the market and the chances for used cars to receive even more research.
Having a used car doesn’t mean you’re on the opposite end of the new tech scale. Quite the opposite, you will instead be placed right at the heart of innovation. A huge market of used cars exists globally, and innovators have rightly seen that they simply can’t ignore the fact; as a result, some of the most exciting and creative new technology being released every year is directed straight towards the cars that most people would put on the scrapheap in favour of new tech.