The impact of Covid-19 is not sector neutral. A handful of sectors have benefitted and flourished, some sectors are looking at obliteration, and the majority are facing an extremely difficult period. The automotive sector sits towards the graver end of that spectrum. Before Covid-19 it was already facing major strategic challenges: from electric vehicles, from novel business models, and the tantalising prospect of autonomous vehicles. And in the minds of many governments and consumers the automotive sector was perceived as a key contributor to climate change, while also being a major employer with all the political and economic sensitivities that entails.
The Automotive Case Study – Learnings for Boards
Fidelio brings deep expertise in the automotive sector reflected in our client assignments, advising and developing leadership teams, as well as the heritage of our senior consultants with extensive international Board, Executive and investment experience in this critical segment. As such we are well placed to see that the automotive sector provides an excellent case study for leadership and disruption.
Automotive is a microcosm of the economy at large and warrants attention from any business leader – at Board or Executive level – looking to hone their skills in transformation and crisis. It is a sector facing extreme business model risk where a profound and strategic response is required. As the world starts to recover from the epidemic, we are seeing industry players setting out their stall on how they will be contributing to building back better.
The automotive industry has traditionally lacked diversity but is now diversifying into new skill sets and shaking up old business models. It’s vital as the sector builds up a technology and digital capability that it doesn’t move backwards on gender: these industries tend to be somewhat behind the automotive sector when it comes to recruiting and developing women and diversity and inclusion more generally.
Automotive is a sector that is a very large employer, not just directly but across its vast ecosystem. Well over a quarter of manufacturing jobs in Germany are dependent on the automotive sector and its supply chain: as a consequence, business leaders in the sector need to be extremely adroit at engaging with politicians and worker representatives to navigate the way ahead. This is all the more true as geopolitical tensions increase: as a global industry it will inevitably be caught up in the trade climate between the US and China, and in the implications of Brexit.
Automotive also has the opportunity to make a very sizeable contribution to the environmental debate and to addressing climate change. Though it’s often been seen as a villain, as people rethink the need for clean mobility in a post-virus world the industry will be there with new technologies including electrification. Indeed, the scale of the upheaval gives the agile in the sector an opportunity to carve out a space with innovative solutions.
Finally, it is a sector that lost control of its own narrative in the years running up to Covid-19, allowing challengers such as Tesla to dominate the popular debate and leaving space for well-intentioned but at times ill-informed regulatory choices. The epidemic has shaken the cards up again, and there is an opportunity for the automotive industry to benefit from that disruption.
Shortly before lockdown, Fidelio hosted a Board Breakfast with business leaders across the automotive sector including the supply chain, the dealerships and the OEMs as well as investors in this sector. The issues discussed remain valid, and in many cases the trends we identified have been accelerated by the epidemic. The automotive sector is important for the global economy. Fidelio’s insight and experience show that as a sector automotive has rich learnings for any business leader keen to understand transformation, disruption and the pathway to honing a sustainable and investible response.
To read more about “Automotive in the Extinction Rebellion World: How Diversity and Innovation Can Contribute to the Industry’s Response to Climate Change”, please click here.