Trends in the automotive industry 2026

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The automotive industry in Europe is facing numerous challenges. But also countless opportunities. Those who choose the right solutions now will win. Read more in the trend report!

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Short and sweet

The automotive industry in Europe is facing numerous challenges: The stricter emissions regulations, increasing competition by new non-European market participants and the rapid technological developments are putting the industry under pressure.

At the same time, consumers are demanding more sustainability and innovation. In order to meet these challenges, the industry must be flexible and adaptable and must venture into new business models.
So it's high time to find new motivation and not lose heart despite crises!
These are the key trends and primary challenges that are already shaping the automotive industry today and will become even more relevant in the coming years:

Autonomous driving: The invisible driver

Autonomous driving is one of the biggest and most widely reported trends in the automotive industry. Car manufacturers and, increasingly, technology companies are working hard to develop self-driving vehicles. This technology promises to make road transport safer and more efficient. However, the path to mass production is fraught with regulatory hurdles and high costs. These need to be reduced in the future, and technical components and software need to be further optimised.

Sharing economy & urbanization: a new business model

The sharing economy is changing the way people use mobility. Car sharing and ridesharing models are gaining popularity, especially among younger people in urban areas. According to the Goldman Sachs report, 35% of millennials and 7% of Generation Z are already willing to use car sharing globally. And the trend is rising. Urbanization is also placing new demands on infrastructure and transport policy. Car manufacturers have to adapt entire business models to cope with this change. Subscriber models and the profitable use of information are the keywords of the future here.

Connected car (device on wheels): Networking on a new level

Vehicles are increasingly becoming networked devices. The so-called "connected car" offers numerous digital services, from navigation and infotainment to digital vehicle diagnostics and maintenance.
This intelligent networking requires considerable investment in software and IT security. In conjunction with the trend towards autonomous driving, however, a new field of enormous monetary interest will open up.
Communication between the vehicle and its immediate surroundings will also provide new potential and data to increase safety and efficiency in road traffic in the future.

New fuels and e-mobility: alternatives are in demand

The pressure to reduce CO2 emissions will continue to drive the development of alternative fuels and electromobility in the coming years.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular and cheaper, and investments in charging infrastructure are increasing. In this area in particular, more and more suppliers are entering the highly competitive market, in some cases even technology companies from outside the industry. At the same time, hydrogen and synthetic fuels are being researched as promising alternatives. Openness to technology and greater investment in research and development will become more relevant for manufacturers and suppliers in the future.

Cost reduction in production: push for development

Automotive production is under pressure to reduce costs, partly in order to be able to channel more funds into development, while at the same time increasing quality. Automation, lean manufacturing and the use of new materials and technologies such as AI are key strategies for reducing costs. Companies in the automotive industry must become significantly more efficient in their processes in order to remain competitive.

You can master the transformation in the automotive industry with these solutions

But how do you tackle these various challenges? Where are useful synergies to be exploited in order to save costs and time?

Some of these solutions are already being publicly discussed and implemented by the major players in the market. However, not all players in the automotive industry have yet seized the opportunities available to them. It is now high time to break up old structures and establish efficient, digitalized processes, build intelligent networks and collaborations and make more out of your data with the help of AI.

Development cooperations for more innovative strength

Development cooperations in the automotive industry have long been observed between major brands. However, cooperations with Chinese car manufacturers, who have particular expertise in the field of e-mobility, are also increasingly coming into focus.

Development cooperations reduce development costs and also the risk due to shared resources. Companies benefit from the complementary knowledge of their partners, which in turn accelerates innovations and market launches. Together, they can tap into new markets and strengthen their respective competitiveness. They can also develop sustainable technologies and better meet regulatory requirements.

Manufacturers and OEMs who are already fully digitized and can provide a simple but secure exchange of information, smart processes and cross-system collaboration will benefit. Salesforce delivers here with the Automotive Cloud an optimal basis that is specifically tailored to the needs of players in the automotive industry.

Networking as a step into the future

The networking of vehicles, also known as connected cars, offers the automotive industry numerous advantages of a technological, economic and environmental nature.

Technologically, connected cars increase safety through real-time data on traffic conditions, support advanced driver assistance systems and are crucial for the development of autonomous vehicles-In addition, connected cars promote integration into smart cities and support data-driven urban planning projects, leading to better use of infrastructure.
From an environmental perspective, connected cars also help to reduce emissions by suggesting more efficient routes and optimizing the integration of electric vehicles.

Economically - and this is a particularly relevant point - they will also enable completely new business models in the future, such as data-based subscriptions, more efficient maintenance and operation as well as cost savings through detailed data analysis. Those who obtain data or enable data collection and draw the right conclusions from it can build up an enormous market presence.

Agile organization for faster responsiveness

The introduction of agile organizational structures in the automotive industry brings numerous benefits, especially as vehicles increasingly incorporate software. Agile methods enable faster response times and flexibility, which is crucial to respond to rapidly changing market conditions and customer requirements. Product quality is iteratively improved through frequent testing and continuous customer feedback, while efficient use of resources is optimized through functional teams and prioritization of tasks.

Agile structures promote innovation and facilitate the integration of hardware and software, allowing companies to remain competitive and at the forefront of technology. All of this leads to increased employee motivation and a stronger market position, which is essential in an increasingly software-driven vehicle landscape and with the looming shortage of skilled workers.

To support this, the internal IT landscape must also be set up so that all teams can access all relevant information from the ERP and CRM system quickly and from any location.

Artificial intelligence for efficient planning

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) promises a sustainable revolution. AI not only enables more efficient production and manufacturing through automation and real-time quality control, it also helps with predictive maintenance, which leads to higher productivity and fewer breakdowns. In the supply chain, AI ensures optimized inventory management, improved supply chain analysis and optimized transport logistics, which can reduce costs and shorten delivery times.

When developing and designing new vehicle models, AI speeds up the process thanks to simulations and digital prototypes, while at the same time providing customized design suggestions based on customer data. The driving experience is significantly improved by autonomous driving and personalized driver assistance systems.

Overall, AI offers carmakers and suppliers significant cost savings, productivity gains, improved quality, innovation support and a clear competitive advantage, making it a primary driver of future developments in the automotive industry.

Data security as a clear competitive advantage

Data security is also becoming a decisive competitive factor. Companies in the automotive industry must ensure that their customers' and vehicles' data is protected. A common concern among consumers is that their data will be passed on to third parties or that vehicles will be hacked.

Investments in secure data structures and Systems are therefore highly relevant. Manufacturers and OEMs can set themselves apart from the competition thanks to prioritized data security and gain the trust of customers, which leads to a clear competitive advantage.

They also ensure compliance with legal requirements, minimize liability risks and thus protect their brand reputation. A strong security foundation promotes innovation and enables the safe introduction of new technologies and services such as autonomous driving and car sharing. In the long term, companies can reduce costs and increase the trust of business partners and regulators through preventative safety measures, leading to smoother collaboration and easier market approvals.


The automotive industry is facing far-reaching changes. But also countless new opportunities. Success will come to those who react flexibly to new trends and implement innovative solutions quickly. Development cooperations, networking and new monetization models, agile organizations, AI-supported processes and data security are key strategies for surviving in such a dynamic market environment in the future.

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