Automotive Industry Must Embrace Digital Revolution

By Sigrid de Vries:

Sigrid de Vries

The next decade will change the automotive landscape almost beyond recognition. Our industry must rise to the challenge and maintain our world-leading position. Today’s automotive industry is at a turning point: it must embrace the upcoming digital revolution, automated and connected driving, environmental challenges, societal changes and growing globalisation.
Our industry has a crucial importance within the EU economic landscape. Specifically, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) and its members stand for more than Euro 600bn in sales, over Euro 20bn in R&D spending and more than five million employed people providing 50 percent of all innovation in the Automotive industry.

New Industrial Age

The emergence of a new industrial age where areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, energy storage, electrification and the bio-economy are key drivers of change. Traditional manufacturing processes are being transformed by automation and industries are increasingly integrated in global value chains. Most importantly of all, the pace of change is accelerating. These challenges also create opportunities for those sectors that adapt in time. There are five key challenges the automotive sector is facing now and in the mid-term:
i. New technologies and business models will require high investment to manage the shift to alternative powertrains, electrification, connected and automated driving. In addition, significant investment is required to take advantage of the developments in advanced manufacturing (including the greater digitalisation and robotisation of the manufacturing process), handling of, and access to, vehicle data, 3D printing, new communications technologies and the use of new materials;
ii. Climate goals, environmental and health challenges including the need to profoundly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles necessitating a move to alternative power trains, with zero-emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles taking an ever-greater share of the market, supported by greater range autonomy, more efficient batteries and improved charging infrastructure;
iii. Societal changes and changes in the way that consumers access, purchase and use cars and other modes of transport, spurred by increasing connectivity and the greater use of e-commerce;
iv. Globalisation and the rise of new players, including technology providers, the need to ensure a level playing field and fair access to markets as well as the necessity of a European industry being competitive and producing the goods corresponding to the demand on the international markets; and
v. Structural change due to the move to low and zero emission vehicles and increasingly automated driving with potential significant implications for the labour market in terms of potential restructuring, acquisition of new skills, retraining etc., and the whole value chain.

New Business Models

Encouragement is not key, rather paving the way for the new business models. The European automotive industry needs to create competitive advantages and commercial business cases to meet ‘disruptors’ entering the transport sector. A major forward-looking challenge is to maintain or increase the share of EU-produced high-quality and high-technology automotive products on third country markets with a high growth potential.

New Skills

The development of new technologies and services will require new skills and jobs to maintain these new technologies. A range of new businesses, services and jobs will emerge to develop new ‘mobility-on-demand’ and digital services.
This needs to be anticipated and may need to be accompanied through public support actions.
These jobs will therefore evolve, and qualifications, education and training will be needed to adapt the workforce to this new landscape.
CLEPA is currently participating in a European Project called ‘DRIVES’ (Development and Research on Innovative Vocational Education Skills). Its objective is to facilitate the upgrading and mobility of skills to allow European companies to remain competitive.
The project, a successor of European Automotive Skills Council and GEAR 2030 will evaluate the future needs of the industry. CLEPA´s role is to guarantee the industry´s perspective on the implementation of the project and ensure that the implementation of the project fulfils in general the needs of the automotive industry and its perspective to the future skills requirements in the sector.

Human Capital Needs

There will be a need of identification and definition of future human capital needs according to identified trends and potential scenarios. The industry, with the support of EU, Member States, Education and Training providers, Academia should identify tools and implement measures to address human capital / skills gap including: Creating a framework of standard job roles with associated skills requirement to increase the understanding on available opportunities in the sector; Improving transferability of workforce across the value chain; Creating a better functioning of EU apprenticeship market; and Improving the recognition of non-formal/informal learning.
(Sigrid de Vries is the Secretary-General of CLEPA – European Association of Automotive Suppliers)

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