Is the world now ready for the product-as-service model?
The launch of the Riversimple’s Rasa electric two seater car is remarkable for two reasons. First, it could bring hydrogen vehicles onto the market at the scale of their electric cousins, and secondly Riversimple is planning to provide the vehicles as a service rather than an outright purchase.
The Product-Service System (PSS) concept has been around for a long time, but it is generally successful in business to business (B2B) niche markets such as fleet vehicles, photocopiers (buy the copies not the copier) and chemical management systems. Some high profile attempts at B2B servitisation have failed: Interface tried to sell a floor-covering service, but customers couldn’t get out of the ‘carpet as capital purchase’ mindset, and compressed air services have struggled in the UK when popular in France. More recently Rolls-Royce have made a success of a jet engine service, bringing PSS back to the top of the agenda.
From a sustainability point of view PSS makes a lot of sense – you break the link between the needs of the customer and the amount of stuff they are given to meet those needs. So if I buy a photocopy service from Xerox, they are incentivised to not try and sell me a new copier every year, but maintain and upgrade the one I have.
Where the Rasa will be interesting is whether it can break into the consumer (B2C) market. To date, only digital consumer services have usurped their physical counterparts (eg Netflix replacing DVDs), but with personal car leasing starting to rise in popularity, maybe Riversimple are on to something. I’ll be keeping a close eye!