Amid the noise surrounding new product launches, announcements and demonstrations at the Consumer Electronics Show 2015* in Las Vegas there was one concept presentation that stood out from the crowd – that for the Mercedes Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion visionary concept car.
My interest was less to do with the technology – with driverless car trials set to launch here in the UK this month involving an array of academic, public and commercial stakeholders – but rather the positioning, specifically the language used by Dieter Zietsche, Head of Mercedes Benz cars. E.G:
“The single most important luxury goods of the 21st century are private space and time”
Zietsche went on to argue that the F105 should be considered an “exclusive cocoon” – the redefinition of 21st century luxury – in tandem with a wider vision for the future of autonomous driving:
“Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society. The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space”
All of which speaks to a vision of the luxury consumer, insulated from and protected against the outside world (and note that the F105 does not have windows in the traditional sense but uses Pixel Stream technology to project images into the interior). So the mobile living space becomes a mobile gated community ensuring that the owner (and guests) is protected from and insulated against the real world (and it’s people) even when in transit – in much the same way as luxury private jets operate.
Thus the contours of the 21st century luxury tech paradigm are directly related to the wealth driven polarisation of contemporary society – as reflected upon by Giles Hedger, Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett Worldwide in Marketing magazine here. As Giles says:
“More than half of all the personal tradable wealth in the UK is in the hands of this 1% pinnacle of households. The chasm of spending power between the 1% and the rest is feeding a system of consumer behaviour as powerful as any hierarchical class dynamic”
All of which reminds me of the famous quote from Warren Buffet as reported here:
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Is this the future that we aspire to? Quite apart from the implications for individuals, families, communities and society what does it mean for the future of brands orientated toward the broad aspirational middle-class?
*For those interested in the six key trends (rather than the specific manifestations) underpinning the range of CES 2015 product launches then PSFK kindly provided a de facto bluffers guide in advance of the show here.
And for those interested in the breadth of automotive concepts unveiled at CES 2015 Mashable have put together a compilation of the weird and the wonderful here.