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Turkish EV startup Togg has a new and novel way of approaching the problem of making cars.
Speaking at a media roundtable at CES 2022 in Las Vegas, CEO Gürcan Karakaş stated that, at his company, they prefer to call their vehicles a “smart device” rather than a “car.”
This change in nomenclature is reflective of the way that Togg is trying to differentiate not only its products but the entire company, as well.
A new approach
In all of Togg’s press materials, the company is keen to demonstrate that it isn’t a “car company.” Instead, Karakaş explained that Togg is a “tech company.”
The difference between the two, he explained, runs deeper than you’d expect. The most important employees at car companies, according to Karakaş, are the engine and gearbox engineers – almost every other person in the business is expected to take a backseat. These engineers, he said, also make it all the way to the top positions, leading to problems for company outlook and strategy.
Tech companies, meanwhile, have less institutional inertia and are “small, agile, and user-focused.” With EVs becoming more defined by their software than hardware, engineers are, effectively fish out of water. Working with chips more closely related to those found in smartphones than cars, “in the new world,” coders will be more important than engineers.
The decision-making structure of tech companies and car companies is also completely different according to Karakaş. For example, when deciding how to position the brand in Europe, Togg identified 950 features that users would like to have in their cars and then, with the help of a third-party company, it worked out how to fit these features in at a price point that would suit drivers.
Even when it came to physically developing its new C-segment SUV, Togg has been adaptable and agile. The company started with the battery and then built the car around it. In fact, Karakaş said that Togg even shortened the wheelbase during development in order to help the car meet its 500-km range target.
Brand-new car companies tend to be risky ventures but Togg isn’t getting ahead of itself.
Karakaş said that Togg would be starting in its home market before looking to expand into northern and central Europe.
As ever with pure EV companies, much of Togg’s success depends on the availability of charging infrastructure. Karakaş conceded that, at present, Turkey’s EV infrastructure is slightly lacking. However, they also are intending to alleviate the issue with its own charging company that launched last year.
However, Karakaş did caveat that Togg’s expansion is based on a relatively tight 18-month deadline – should its SUV and saloon models not be successful in Turkey in that year-and-a-half period, then expansion might be slowed.
Interestingly, but perhaps not unsurprisingly for the CEO of a new automaker, Karakaş explained that “the times are over to build up dealerships.”
“Users,” said Karakaş, will be able to touch, feel, and test drive their cars at flagship stores and in-person but all of the financial and informational transactions will take place online.
In the mind of Karakaş, the Togg cars won’t simply exist in isolation. Instead, the vehicles will form part of an “ecosystem” involving a range of other companies and services.
Finance, gaming, and blockchain partner companies will form part of the Togg ecosystem and will give drivers “safe, secure, and fast” data and money transfer.
This, he said, will allow drivers to interact with the world around them whether they are buying energy to charge their cars, paying tolls, or consuming media in the vehicles.
That last point is particularly pertinent. Togg’s vehicles will turn into a “living space” and drivers will do more than simply use their cars to get from A to B.
It’s clear from speaking to Karakaş that Togg’s plans are ambitious and markedly different from many of the EVs being produced by traditional manufacturers.
Of course, there is a high level of risk involved. From the ambitious 18-month success plan in its native market, which will rely heavily on the growth of charging infrastructure, to buy-in from consumers on the “living space” aspect of their design.
It will be interesting to see whether the company can pull it off.