Though it has remained basically the same over the past century, the time to redefine the auto industry could have arrived as non-traditional players bring about revolutionary changes, said industry insiders.
"Truly it is time for us to reconsider vehicles as a result of our environmental concerns as well as the Internet's penetration into our daily lives," said Chen Ping, chief engineer of BJEV, the new-energy vehicle arm of BAIC Motor, at a press conference for the Global New-Energy Vehicle Conference to be held next month in Tianjin.
"Though cars' fundamental function as a means of transport will not change soon, they will be become electrified, connected to the Internet and smart," he said, citing the example of mobile phones that can be wirelessly charged in BJEV's electric car EV 200.
Guo Yongguang, vice-president of Tgood, a company specializing in charging infrastructure, said charging poles will be smart terminals of the future.
Data about battery management, car performance and even tire pressure will be collected as cars are charged. Suggestions on maintenance issues will then be made, said Guo.
"Those are things that you won't get in traditional cars," he said.
Yang Hongze, CEO of telematics maker Auto Link World, said new-energy vehicles are a trend that could change everyday life.
With it hard to persuade individuals to purchase new energy vehicles because they are more expensive than gasoline-powered cars, rentals might become a new part of mobility, said Yang.
"You might rent a QQ to get to work in the morning and a Ferrari for a date at night while the cost combined might equal that of owning a Buick," said Yang.
But he added a mind-boggling picture is the thought that automated driving could become commonplace.
"Although it is uncertain there might be even more dramatic changes," said Yang.
Chen Feng, chairman of electric vehicle maker Skio Matrix, said the look as well as function would become different if automated driving becomes a reality.
"If people don't have to drive themselves, the car might be a mobile office or an entertainment room where you can sing and dance," said Chen.
Citing Tesla's success, Chen believes that it will be tech companies that bring about the revolution instead of traditional automakers. "After all, it is harder to stage a revolution against oneself than against others."
Drivers should also be involved in designing the future auto industry because it is they who use cars every day, said Li Hong, deputy general manger of D1EV.com, one organizer of the conference to be held in Tianjin.
"That's we invite individuals to share their likes and dislikes about new-energy vehicles at the upcoming event."