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‍What role do we all have to play in the sustainable mobility transition? 

Michael Grandfils
Managing director
Lab Box
Special series

For the first interview of the series, we have interviewed Michael Grandfils, Co-founder and Managing Director of Lab Box. Lab Box is a start-up studio focusing on new mobility and based in Brussels, Belgium. 

Michael started his career at Procter & Gamble in Geneva before joining Bain & Company in Brussels. He joined D’Ieteren in 2016 as Investment Manager before co-founding Lab Box in 2017. 

In this interview, Michael shares his views on the current mobility trends, what influences our mobility needs and what role we can all play in the sustainable mobility transition.

1. To start, a question we will ask all our experts in this series: what are the key trends you see in the mobility sector?

There are 4 main trends in the mobility sector which will impact the future. 

The first one is the electrification of modes of transportation such as cars, bikes, etc. There are currently millions being invested and it will be an ongoing trend for the next 10, 15, 30 years, especially in the light-duty vehicles. 

The second trend I see is the diversification of the mobility offering: micro-mobility, ride hailing, shared e-steps, etc. This gives us more and more mobility options to fit our needs. 

A third trend is car sharing, where we maximize the use of one vehicle. I think it will continue to grow mainly for macro-economic reasons. On average, a small car costs easily 400 to 500 euros per month when you add up fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc. The economic factor is often the biggest driver to change people's behavior. 

There is also a modal shift from using a privately owned car to other modes of transportation. Where before, we were using our private cars with a little bit of public transport, we see more and more people trying different modes of transportation and combining them to answer their mobility needs. 

We also see an increase in the use of electric bikes. Most trips we do in our everyday life are less than 10 km and electric bikes are simply the most efficient. Over the years, they have become a mode of transportation to commute. 

And finally, long-term we will see transport automatisation play a bigger role. 

2. What are the key reasons for D’Ieteren to launch Lab Box?

D’Ieteren has been in the mobility landscape in Belgium for 200 years and has been going through different evolutions of its business models. They are aware that the future is uncertain and there will be significant changes in the next 20 years. It was therefore important for them to stay relevant and be able to answer future mobility needs by bringing new solutions to customers.

In this vision, Lab Box was launched 5 years ago with the objective to look at the new mobility market. As it evolved, it became a start-up studio launching new businesses to answer mobility needs.

3. What would you say are the key needs of consumers in terms of mobility?

I think it’s important to differentiate the needs in B2B, B2C or even B2G. 

If you look at the B2B market, organizations are looking for solutions to develop mobility packages that go beyond the company car or public transport subscriptions and that can help them achieve their sustainability goals.
For the B2C market, everyone has different mobility needs according to where you live and what your lifestyle is. But there are usually 4 key criteria that influence our mobility choices: how efficient, comfortable and fast is the mode of transportation and how much it costs. 

Mobility decision criteria

Everyone will give more weight to one criteria over the other one. For example, if their employer pays for it, the cost will matter less than speed. But for 80% of B2C, cost will be the most important criteria in the decision-making process.

4. What role should organizations play in the sustainable mobility transition?

Organizations definitely have a role to play in mobility but we need the right fiscal framework in place to give them the means to act. 

In Belgium for example, the recent law Van Peteghem will encourage organizations to have greener fleets. By having more electric vehicles as company cars, it will be a big push for Belgium to develop new infrastructure like charging stations. If more infrastructure is built to answer B2B needs, it will also benefit the consumers and influence our mobility habits. 

In France, the legal framework is also evolving with the introduction of ‘Forfait Mobilités Durables’ a year ago. Employers can now get fiscal deductions to pay for their employees' commute when they use green modes of transportation. 

Of course, it will take more time in countries with less or no legal framework.

5. More specifically, which role car dealers can play in this transition? 

The car dealers' business is currently at risk and they need to jump in the mobility world of tomorrow. They can stay as they are or make big investments like d’Ieteren did with Lab Box or Valckenier investment in MyMove. 

But there is also a middle ground between the two where they can develop new mobility solutions for their clients, adjacent to their existing services. They already have a competitive advantage compared to a new player in the market: they have vehicles, a client base, somewhere to do the maintenance and known locations in the area they cover. A new service like car sharing is easy to promote to existing customers and they can also leverage their replacement cars to rent during the week-end. 

Car dealers are very relevant actors, maybe less so in big cities where there is already lots of competition but they can play a big role in rural areas with less mobility offering.

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