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In Case You Missed SOA 2021: Automotive Tech Talks

March 25, 2021
The second half of the State of Automobility presentation featured Automotive Tech Talks covering a variety of topics from the future of electrification to the evolution of the workplace.

John McElroy, host of Autoline, provided insights into the automotive industry’s change of pace to remain competitive in the 21st century but focused on the need for Michigan to step up and do its part.

The state of Michigan is facing an educational crisis with high rates of dropouts, absenteeism, and children who have fallen behind the curve. The downturn in educational attainment has in turn impacted the amount of skilled and educated talent that is available for Michigan’s workforce. In fact, in 2018 Amazon cited Detroit’s questionable ability to attract and retain young talent as part of the reason the city wasn’t chosen to host their North American headquarters.

McElroy suggests three solutions to fix the root of the educational issues:

  • Tutors
  • Counselors
  • Mentors

Notes McElroy, “The Detroit Regional Chamber with the Detroit Promise and the Detroit Promise Path are doing the right thing with Detroit students who want to go to college. Their programs includes things like coaches and could be a blueprint for how we move forward with K-12 students.”

On a federal level, McElroy suggests using government dollars to invest in things that will help the U.S. economy grow, prosper, and compete in the global economy, including the United States educational system.

“Educationally we are near the bottom and falling behind. Every year we condemn another generation to a lower standard of living. Every year our infrastructure grows a little bit older, and yet, we’ve got no plan to get back on track,” said McElroy. “We need to make this a part of the ongoing national debate, and Michigan needs to do it if it wants to keep the automotive industry.”

Automotive Tech Talk: BEV and Electrification Impact

Michael Robinet, executive director of IHS Markit Advisory, joined the State of Automobility presentation to discuss the future of electrification and battery electric vehicles.

The shift from internal combustion engines (ICE) to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) has become a global movement in the major markets like Europe, North America, and China, hosting 85% of BEV production. This has created a need for the Michigan automotive companies to become more BEV-focused.

“Vehicle manufacturers are focusing vast majority of capital and resources on electrification,” said Robinet. “It’s important for Michigan as we make the transition from an ICE to a more BEV focused area. The traditional OEMs are starting that electrification push in their home markets…but they will quickly expand in other parts of the world, like GM going to China.”

Automotive electrification, which started small with compact vehicles, has now begun to move to the luxury and performance side. Robinet notes that these high-end vehicles are critical moving forward to the mass market.

With the influx of BEVs comes a new economy of scale that will drive the consolidation of smaller automotive companies. Smaller manufacturers are going to find it harder to differentiate themselves.

“There is a new cadence the industry needs to adapt to,” said Robinet. “We need to start thinking in six-to-seven-year buckets.”

Automotive Tech Talk: Evolution of How We Will Work in the Future

Over the last 12-months the build of the average workplace has shifted dramatically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ali Caravella, partner at WRK/360 joined the conversation to discuss the need for companies in Michigan to adjust to changes and invest in their culture to move the workplace forward.

Currently, Michigan is in flux. Businesses have not returned to a pre-COVID-19 normal (and likely never will) but have also not fully established a new normal.

Instead, Caravella hints at a “next phase of work,” one characterized by a need for organizations to be more willing to invest in their culture and show genuine care for their employees in order to promote retention.

Three Tiers of Focus as Michigan moves into the new phase of work:

  • Organizations
  • Managers
  • Employees

“People and the policy and programs that surround them need to be front of mind,” said Caravella. “Employees are looking for employers to be more transparent, provide more flexibility, and genuinely care about them as whole people. It’s helpful to have an approach that is inclusive, actionable, and repeatable.”

Suggested process for navigating the next phase of work:

  • Culture and Values: Organizations must commit or recommit to their culture and values.
  • Experimentation: The new world we are in has new ways of working, and businesses must be willing to try new things.
  • Measurement and Assessment: Organizations must collect data and assess as they experiment.
  • Employee Feedback: Along with data, organizations must listen to employees and utilize direct feedback when assessing workplace culture.
  • Strategy Refinement: Use the data and feedback to refine the company policy and strategy.
  • Leadership Alignment: Leaders across the organization must be aligned on the strategy and mission.

The next phase of work is characterized by adaptability and evolution, the workplace must be humanized at a time when employees need it more than ever.

Adds McElroy, “It’s going to be companies who invest in their culture that are going to be able to retain their employees.”

Automotive Tech Talk: The People Equation

Marc Siry, vice president of Strategic Development for Comcast Business, joined the Automotive Tech Talks to discuss the evolution of connectivity and its connection to the automotive industry.

Leading in mobility will take participation from everyone throughout the local and business communities. On a community level, electrification requires changes to the way energy is managed and delivered. At Comcast Business, they have focused on contributing to connectivity, including the human connection that technology directly empowers.

“Hand in hand with electrification comes autonomy,” said Siry, and Comcast is pushing that narrative as they work to electrify their entire fleet of tech vans to help round out a smart city strategy.

However, the connectivity evolution doesn’t always come easy. It takes a lot of planning on a community level to make sure all of these changes’ benefits everyone.

“The tech revolution has had many benefits but one downside has been the creation of a digital divide,” noted Siry. “At Comcast we have been addressing the digital divide for a decade now with our internet essentials program which provides low-cost internet to deserving residents, as well as, content to help with digital literacy and skills-based training.”