Future mobility: EU Commission shifts gears

November 05, 2019

The automotive industry stands on the brink of a revolution that will affect not only automobile manufacturers and suppliers but also stakeholders in an expanding ecosystem including not only traditional players like automobile and component manufacturers, spare part and repair companies, and motor insurance and parking providers, but also a wide variety of companies not historically associated with the sector: large online platforms, mobile communications patentholders, Internet of Things (IoT) players, Internet service providers (ISPs), app developers, and others. Arthur D. Little comments that the “mobility landscape is being completely reshaped,” while PwC identifies five trends driving industry transformation: electric cars, autonomous vehicles, shared mobility, connected cars and frequent updating. A McKinsey study names four disruptive technology-driven trends driving the automotive revolution through 2030:  diverse mobility, autonomous driving, electrification and connectivity.

The European Union (EU) is an enthusiastic participant in the mobility revolution. The flagship of the EU’s future mobility strategy is the May 2018 Third Mobility Package, which was introduced by a communication on “Sustainable Mobility for Europe: safe, connected, and clean,” with a strategic action plan on batteries for electric vehicles and a communication on “An EU strategy for the mobility of the future” (the Future Mobility Communication). The Third Mobility Package followed a number of related initiatives, including notably the 2014 alternative fuels directive and follow-up; the 2016 European Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) and selection of AUTOPILOT as a large-scale pilot project for autonomous vehicles in a connected environment; and the 2017 European Battery Alliance and report on access to in-vehicle data and resources. The EU has also made available funds through its Horizon 2020 framework programme and otherwise, and will likely continue to do so under the new Horizon Europe programme.

Alongside these EU carrots, however, the mobility sector is poised to feel the stick of EU antitrust enforcement. McKinsey notes that in “”a more complex and diversified mobility industry landscape, incumbent players will be forced to simultaneously compete on multiple fronts and cooperate with competitors.”  Indeed, the sector’s evolution involves an unprecedented level of cooperation to develop new products and services and create new technical standards. New transport business models, such as car-sharing and ride-hailing, are evolving rapidly and reducing demand for traditional vehicle sales. The new vehicles and services will necessitate the creation of new online platforms and generate vast amounts of data not only for platform owners but also for participants in adjacent markets, such as auto repairs, fueling/charging platforms, parking, motor insurance and others.

The future mobility sector thus pushes many of the hottest antitrust buttons:  big data; online platforms; information sharing; developing/setting standards; and cooperation up, down and across value chains. Indeed, DG COMPETITION already has a number of future mobility cases under way or recently concluded.  With the start of a new EC mandate in December 2019, DG COMPETITION will likely take a new, more coordinated approach to the future mobility sector, potentially including a sector inquiry. Indeed, President-Elect Ursula von der Leyen’s mission letter (the Mission Letter) to Commissioner-designate Vestager directs her to “consider using . . . sector inquiries into new and emerging markets” and to “proactively share any relevant general market knowledge within the Commission . . . [to] ensure new legislative proposals contribute to fair and open competition.”

This article briefly reviews the main areas in which the future mobility sector can be expected to raise antitrust issues – acquisitions and joint ventures; standard setting and licensing; big data, information sharing and technology pooling;  online platforms; and State aid – discussing ongoing and recent cases in the mobility sector. This article then discusses the EC’s possible priorities in a future mobility sector inquiry.

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