For those who weren’t able to attend, I have put together my five key takeaways from the event:

The Aftermarket Wants a Level Playing (Data) Field

There is a real fear amongst the independent aftermarket community that automakers have created a position that currently feels like near-unsurmountable dominance when it comes to the vehicle data they control and can access. As original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), they have invested in, designed and created connected vehicles that are capable of generating rich data insights and it is accepted that they should use this as an asset to create new products and services. However, attendees consistently told us that equal, fair and non-discriminatory access should be given to third parties (i.e. aftermarket suppliers) so that can create solutions for their customers. There was cautious optimism about the proposals by the European Commission’s Data Act and great appetite for an automotive-specific addendum.

The European Commission is Aiming to Make Europe Fit for the Digital Age

The conference sessions were opened by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs who explained the significance of the EC’s Data Act (proposed in February). It set out rules on who can use and access data generated in the EU across all economic sectors. This development was widely welcomed, with it going some way to equalising data access and promoting a more competitive environment for aftermarket players. However, there were several questions from the audience on the remit of and speed in creating specific rules for vehicle data. This critical concern was met with the assurance that the Commission has recently opened a public consultation to create a flourishing market for vehicle data services that will stimulate competition. The Commission notes the priority to close the gap between the data that OEMs have access to and the data that the rest of the industry can access. In my view, for Europe to lead the conversation and approach to vehicle data, robust and practical rules needed to make their way into law in a timely fashion.

The Availability of Vehicle Data is Growing (but Slower than Hoped)

During a presentation delivered by Caruso Dataplace, the audience learned about the findings of the company’s 2nd Connected Vehicle Field Test (CVFT):

  • Since the first CVFT in 2020, vehicle data is now available across multiple countries and for more OEMs.
  • The coverage of connected cars for fleet management purposes is lower than anticipated.
  • A common data set across all OEMs in Europe continues to be a stumbling block.

According to Caruso, a basic framework for OEMs to share data with third parties is missing. To illustrate what this means, a slide was shown of the top 15 data items that are currently being shared across all OEMs in Europe, and mileage data was identified as the only consistent item. This finding echoed back to the start of the day when the EC’s representative commented that mileage information alone won’t power many new business models! Caruso will be an interesting company to watch due to the backing it has from the independent aftermarket and the strategic position it has carved out as a platform to host data from across the entire value chain.

High-Value, Data-Driven Use Cases are on the Horizon

During a panel session that I moderated, which included representatives from Ford, ATR International, ANWB (the Royal Dutch Touring Club), and the ZDK (German Federation for Motor Trades and Repairs), the need for legislative clarity and the future prospects of the industry were discussed. Another running theme throughout the conversation was that aftermarket devices such as dongles can be no match for access to OEM embedded data and that the roadside assistance and tire industries should be the inspiration for other areas of the aftermarket to be proactive and innovative with the data they hold. This was later backed up by the in-market solutions that were demonstrated on stage by Michelin and Bridgestone.

There is Scope for Europe to Lead the World with Vehicle Data – but Action is Required

From what I heard on stage during the sessions and from the conversations that took place in the networking breaks, I believe that the industry must be at once mindful that the “data economy for cars” is in its infancy but also impatient about the speed of progress that should be made in regards to regulations that will shape the aftermarket for years to come. As an industry, we find ourselves at a critical moment – one that demands a pragmatic, measured and creative approach. Europe has the chance to show leadership in this area and doing so will allow it to capitalise on the expertise it has built in business-to-business data sharing.

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