Future-Proofing the Automotive Industry

Production and Manufacturing | Insight | Published 09. Mar. 16

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The automotive industry is abuzzed with hybrid and self-driving cars, and all processes have been disrupted by digitization. What does it take for companies to stay competitive in a market saturated with innovation and emerging industry players?

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The havoc that digitization has created in the automotive industry has in it opportunities and threats alike. According to Armin Gräter, Head of Strategy Driver’s Assistance at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, threats can be turned into opportunities when it comes to public perception. He says, “It’s a big task for our communications departments to make the world understand that we are not really into defeating new comers like Google and Apple. For us, it’s a big chance to improve our products and react very heavily to new trends and digitization. It’s really an opportunity for us to be competitive.”

Connected Cars

The concept of connected cars will drastically change consumer behavior. Imagine the abolition of car ownership and in its place, service and mobility. Asked how this concept will change the industry, Markus Tischler, Head of Controlling Sales Electric at Fritz Dräxlmaier GmbH & Co. KG, says, “I think this is still a question that everybody knows will change, but the how and the details that are still unknown, which is something we need to focus on at the moment.” He adds that although the reactions are going to differ from company to company, all of them would have to compete for sure, which is an exciting thing. “This is one big topic for everybody. We will have new players and maybe also work with other industries, companies, and cultures that are completely new to us.”

Autonomous Driving

From concept to reality, driverless cars are soon hitting the roads. But not too fast says Otmar Rauchensteiner, Senior Vice President Development Interieur Systems at DST Dräxlmaier Systemtechnik GmbH. Legalities must first be ironed out, as it’s not about technology or readiness anymore, but about accountability, “If I have an accident with an autonomous car, who is responsible for what?”

Winfried Gründler, Executive Vice President of Truck and Van Powertrain at ZF Friedrichshafen AG, echoes this sentiment, saying, “We have autonomous trucks driving test runs on the motorways. But what happens if the truck crashes? Society will look for someone to blame, and therefore you have to have systems that is also for the benefit of the truck industry and it is not there yet.”

New Features

For Armin Gräter, Head of Strategy Driver’s Assistance at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Markus Steinwender, Manager Strategic Planning at MAGNA Powertrain AG & Co KG, the new features to watch out for in tomorrow’s cars are:

  • Electronics. New sensor technology and laser scanners that give a more precise surround view of the car.
  • Connectivity. 5G mobile phones and direct car-to-car communications.
  • Mobile Phone Car Integration. Highly improved ability to perform non-driving activities in the car like shopping – safely.

The Playbook

With all these changes and challenges, what characteristics should automotive companies have in order to get ahead? According to Markus Tischler, it’s about the ability to combine high-quality with speed. “In my opinion the strong players in the future will be the companies that will be able to react fast in new situations in the market, because a lot of companies will try to be quicker and the quality will suffer.” Walter Mattes, Head of Company Organitation at ZF Friedrichshafen AG, agrees, adding, “Giving the right answers for the questions of tomorrow, especially regarding autonomous driving or connected driving. Also giving the answers very fast and being very quick in making decisions.”


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