ZoZo Go’s Michael Dunne Is Getting Western Automotive Companies Ready For China

Michael Dunne of ZoZo Go. Photo by Mark Phillips

Michael Dunne, the keynote speaker at the recent Latin Auto Parts Expo in Panama, took some time out to talk with Mark Phillips of Aftermarket Intel, who also spoke at the event. Dunne’s company, ZoZo Goadvises global auto companies, tech firms and investors on opportunities in the China-electric-autonomous markets.

Mark Phillips: Tell me a little about what your company does.

Michael Dunne: Our business really is built around getting American and western companies “fit” for China. What does that mean? It means awareness. Not many people know that China produces one third of all vehicles in the world. One third — 30 million out of 90 million are built in China.

Part of the reason they don’t know about that is that it’s been a China game. They build for China in China, but that’s going to change in the next five years. They have ambitions to export not only conventional vehicles but they want to lead in electric and autonomous, too.

And they’re investing. The government has made targets — a plan called Made in China 2025. By that year, China intends to lead the world in electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and ride sharing, arguably the future tech of the auto industry.

They’re aiming for the future of mobility to start in China and go global. Some examples of that include Baidu, which is the Google of China. Last week, Baidu introduced a level 4 autonomous vehicle that will be on the streets of China and Japan by the end of the year. Level 4 — that’s pretty remarkable.

[NOTE: Level 4 is generally defined as a vehicle that operates by itself without human input but mostly under certain road conditions or within a defined geographic area.]

MP: What would the United States have to do infrastructure-wise to accomplish what the Chinese are doing?

MD: It challenges the U.S. in a Sputnik-type moment. Just as we built a great interstate highway system in the 1950s, to lead, we’d almost have to encourage national champions. Take a look at batteries, for example. Today, who makes batteries in the United States? Nobody. It’s the Japanese, Koreans and the Chinese.

In autonomous vehicle technology, Waymo, the Google subsidiary, is doing a good job but they’re just one real leader. Let’s throw some more government R&D weight behind companies in that area. And then electrics. Arguably, Tesla ia America’s only entrant. China has more than two dozen. So, let’s make electric vehicles a priority and let’s put in charging stations and subsidize sales. That’s the kind of thing that would be required to meet what China’s putting out.

MP: Who will be the buyers or users of these vehicles? Will it be mass adoption by the majority of the American population?

MD: Good question. We won’t see a national, sweeping revolution in the way people buy cars or use cars at first. Look for development in pockets on the coasts. For example, today in San Francisco and New York, roughly half the people don’t own their own cars. They’re almost there, using Uber and Lyft. The next stage will be for those mass transportation companies to start using autonomous vehicles. That’s where things will blossom first, then gradually move to the mass market. It’ll be bus lines, truck lines, commercial applications. The last chapter will be when individuals like you and I decide to own an autonomous vehicle. It’ll come much later.

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