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Before the coronavirus started to impact the world, the automotive industry was transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery electric vehicles. Since the corona crisis, the industry has been hit by disruptions in production, from closed factories to a drop in demand resulting from economic uncertainty. Historically low oil prices may also change the economic calculus for consumers. Nevertheless, Western European sales figures from March show rising electric vehicle sales. On the policy side, calls from European lobby groups have failed to garner support from European lawmakers and, more importantly, from key industry players. Many European manufactures have already invested heavily in shifting their production to electric vehicles and fear for the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the industry if regulations are relaxed. In China meanwhile, the government has announced it will extend subsidy programs for electric vehicle purchases. Additionally, major Chinese utility companies will invest heavily in charging infrastructure throughout the country. Although the industry will be impacted by the looming recession, electrification is likely to continue and may even receive a boost from government stimulus.
The growing post-corona state
For centuries, the role of governments in society and the economy has been growing. As big crises are often turning points, the current corona crisis could become one as well. First, the role of the state in the economy will grow significantly. The U.S., for example, has already spent twice as much as it did after the financial crisis of 2008. Fiscal stimulus programs will increase the public sector, while rising public debt will probably see increased taxation in the future. Furthermore, governments are taking unprecedented social measures to contain the virus, such as imposing and enforcing social distancing norms. In addition, many countries worldwide have imposed a “state of emergency” that grants governments additional powers, such as cancelling events, postponing elections and shutting down whole industries. These measures tend to “stick” until long after the initial threat has passed. And while digital technology and applications could help to contain the virus, they could also become means of further state control. So, although the corona crisis is temporary, we will likely see a permanent increase in the size and influence of governments.
Performing together at home
The corona virus has hit the live event business hard. Estimates from Pollstar indicate that the concert industry could lose $8.9 billion in revenues if shows are cancelled until the end of 2020. How long social distancing restrictions will keep people from going to a concert or live show is unknown, as is audiences’ post-COVID-19 appetite for live events. Nevertheless, performers and creative companies are reaching out to audiences virtually. On April 18, The One World: Together at Home concert reached billions of people in 175 countries on virtually every platform available and raised $127.9 million for virus-related charities. Moreover, it was designed to be shared through remixes, for instance through a “Together at Home” album on streaming services or compilations of favorite moments on YouTube. While “Together at Home” was streamed from homes, artists are also organizing concerts in virtual worlds like Minecraft or Fortnite. At this moment, these virtual concerts may feel like experiments, with varying ranges of performances and audio quality, but they may be the prelude to new virtual live event formats.