Auto Industry 2040?

Auto Industry Circa 2040. where will it be?

WOW! MMG! DISCO! These could be names of some of the leading auto component industries in the year 2040! Why have I selected the year 2040? Simply because everyone is talking of this year for introduction of electric cars in a big way; from this year onwards, the real downward trend in manufacture and use of IC engines in the cars, as we know them today, will begin. I am simply assuming that the cars will be available, similar to the cars of today. Masses of cars will be driven by humans, they will have a steering wheel and a power plant/train to give them. They will have some form of braking, electrical system handling various functions, wheels and body with fuel storage area, air conditioning and so on! Things inside could be fancier with more and more entertainment, superior navigation abilities, drivers may become more stress free as cars systems will be able to understand many things and may take over some functions from humans. Internet of things (IOT) will allow things that are not even thought of today.

This is part of evolution of human race but this could be culmination of major change that is taking place currently. The “new” car industry is putting its toddler’s steps today. Evolution is nature as everything in this world is always evolving! Basic driver for these changes is computers and computer chips. The car industry will be using different chips and will capture lots of data data generated by various systems. This data will be in endless loop and will allow cars to function more and more efficiently.

What will be the difference in the cars of today and those in 2040? Today’s power plant, the Engine & Drive train will be replaced by Batteries and Motors. Today’s drive train, gear boxes etc will be just be not there. The exhaust system as is known today will be simply not be needed because there will be no IC engine, both Petrol and Diesel. Gear box and the whole system is really not needed because their function can easily be handled by Electric Motors. Even today, in electric cars, there is a single gear which reduces the RPM to what is needed to drive the car at allowed speeds!

There are many companies that are manufacturing the components that are discussed above. These components may become redundant over a period of time due to introduction of electric cars. Bosch, Denso, Continental, Valeo, Aisin Seiki are some of the major players that manufacture the cluster of these components. These companies together manufacture products worth US $200/ billions every year.  These products may comprise of 40% to 70% of their current turnover. The giants must be already studying the questions that have come to my mind. How are they handling these questions? I am sure it’s a tough call to all of them though they have the where withal and deep pockets to handle difficult situations. Some have started making navigation products, some are making parking assist, camera -related systems. But suddenly new names are being heard in these discussions as vendors. CISCO, NVIDIA are some of them. Some are direct vendors to car makers and some are vendors to components manufacturers.  Where is the real scope for new development and business? Battery packs, battery charging technology to increase per charge distance that the cars can travel today! All other developments that are computer related can also happen in IC engine cars too! TESLA is already building a giga factory for their Battery Packs! So will the “new” component business be taken over by Car Manufacturers? Suzuki, Toyota and Toshiba are coming together in India for big battery plant! What happens to smaller manufacturers of these components? Will they survive the major change? Will “WOW! MMG! DISCO!” replace them? Only time can tell.

In car making, after a long time, new name TESLA, started coming into prominence. TESLA came mainly for the new product offering. It appears that technology like fashion goes round! Till first two decades of last century, IC engine based transportation was not very popular. Trains used steam, cars used electric power plants; but battery technology could not catch with the then needs. Hence IC engine cars and trains became popular. From the existing car manufacturers, some are already manufacturing electric cars more than what TESLA is producing. On top of that they have a running profitable business producing IC engine cars. But one thing is for sure they have the humility and know where they lack. Look at what Volkswagen Brand CEO Deiss has to say about TESLA! 

VOLKSWAGEN brand CEO Diess has said that VW which manufactured 5,987,800 cars last year has to catch up with Tesla which produced 83922 cars last year. “Tesla belongs among the competitors which has abilities that we currently do not have,” Diess said in the interview with “Inside”, a publication for VW employees. Around half of Tesla’s engineers are software experts, while at VW’s core brand it is a much lower proportion, Diess said. Tesla has good electric motors, a fast charging network, autonomous driving technology, internet connectivity, and a new approach toward vehicle distribution. “This shows that we need to significantly improve. We can do this. We measure ourselves against Tesla quite deliberately. Our goal: Using our abilities not just to catch up, but even to overtake,” Diess drives an electric VW Golf.

 Current giants have ready infrastructure and eco system to make and sell millions of cars. They of course lack Electric car eco system as mentioned by Diess above. Their main struggle will be recharging stations for electric cars; but TESLA is also going face the same problem! The question arises if TESLA, a loss making company, a start-up, survive? Let’s look at the startups from the Silicon Valley and the west coast, who really made it big in computer industry sunrise era. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple they all became very big with the products/services that never existed before. TESLA is pitted against the giants for making existing products where the main “driver” is only a different technology! That’s a huge disadvantage. Fighting against giants, who have woken up a bit late, like Mercedes, Honda BMW, Toyota, GM, Ford, Fiat, Hyundai is going to be very very tough for TESLA! Some of these giants are also going to suffer or may merge! My take,Continental TESLA may cease to exist  by 2040 or even earlier as it is known today! Takeover? Maybe! 


Et Tu VW? You Too VW?


Human nature is an extremely complex thing to understand and this has been proven so many times but it always comes up with something most unexpected. Here I am talking of human thought in the business scenario. We have seen companies like Apple, from almost going down to coming up with something brilliant that has taken them to the top of the world, in a matter of a decade. We have seen brilliant thinking like totally new way of doing things in the market place. Look at Amazon. All these changes happen these days, in a very short duration. In both these example we see brilliance shown by minds of individuals.

But there are businesses which are long haul businesses like Steel making, Car making, Aero planes. These are businesses where companies have been around for decades, coming up with incrementally better and better products. Of course there is natural survival of the fittest process, closing certain organizations. These long haul companies achieve their name and fame over decades. They achieve the glory in such a way that in India when someone wants to buy a Chocolate, she will say go and ask for a Cadbury! When you want to drink a soft drink she will say let’s have a Coke! (Variants thereof) Company names become synonymous with products they make. Such achievements are real long-term. In such a scenario the VW issue that has suddenly cropped last week, at least to me was a big shock. How they got into such a big mess! What made them do what they did?

I remember from childhood days in Mumbai, there was a restaurant famous for its thick Lassi. (It’s a sweet thick shake like drink made out of yogurt, where thickness is achieved by adding thick milk cream topping) One fine day there was story in newspapers that these guys were adding thick ink blotting paper in place of the milk cream. This made Lassi look original & thick but it was cheating. Luckily the paper was not harmful to health. WHY was this done? Motive was to make a few Rupees more on each Lassi served! What was the harm? Honestly I don’t know but hopefully nothing serious!!

These days I hear of snack vendors adding thinly cut Cabbage in place of Onion in the snack, as the Onion prices have hit the roof. These are usually added to stuff like Batata wada (Potato Patti with some mixes of vegetables) or in Bhel, an Indian fast food, which is made by adding assortment of stuff! WHY this is done? Motive was to retain profits to reasonable level by replacing Onion by Cabbage. What was the harm, there was no real harm!

There was a case of a Theatre owner who rented out some areas in his theatre for people to use as a warehouse. These areas came in the way of emergency exits, which are used well, only in emergencies. The emergency did arise, as there was a fire during one show. The emergency exits could not be opened due to the stuff stored; end result 50 to 70 people died in the fire. WHY was this done? Motive was to make additional money by selling non-existent place for a warehouse and of course make money! What was the harm; a great harm there were deaths!

But the Lassiwala was a small restaurant, Snack vendors are small time businessmen, theatre guy was a big businessman and they all cheated for money! But what about these giants like GM &VW??

A few years back GM in India fudged their records for their SUV while offering vehicles to Government agencies for emission testing. What could have been their motive? Why did they do it? It was definitely not for money but what could be the motive to cheat? This act was restricted to only India operations and did not cover many vehicles. End result many senior people were thrown out possibly with one suicide! Harm, of course there was harm as additional NO was pumped out in the atmosphere.

But what about VW? 11 million vehicles are affected world over as already accepted by VW. What’s going on? Who ordered this cheating? What was achieved? Could this have happened without clearance from Senior Management Group? It’s embarrassing to compare Laasiwala, Wadawalla with VW!! Small timers, all cheated for money and the Giants cheated for God Knows What!! But from what has come out till date VW & GM are the worst culprits. When GM issue occurred GM was the world’s largest vehicle manufacture of cars and so is VW when the cheating issue broke out. Do such companies become so large by cheating? I don’t think so! They do it by sheer hard work, perseverance, and passion. They are here for long haul stay in the market. Their products have been known for both quality and performance. So why they did what they did? What was the motive? Were they never worried that this cheating is bound to come out at some stage? What effect will this have on their name in the global market? Did they think that public memory is very short and companies will easily override the ripple effect? Can one of the waves become a tsunami?  Is VW prepared for a Tsunami? I don’t think so.

How will VW matter close? It’s anybody’s guess as on today. There will be action from Governments leading to large fines, there will be costs of replacements of components on the car or there will be hit on the performance. There will be class action suits in America and these can be really expensive! VW says they have already set aside US $ 7/ billion to handle the matter. As I understand this amount can only handle public relation costs; what about cost of VW’s tarnished name?

I started the blog with discussion on human mind. What sort of mind created this problem? In this world there are people like Bill Gates who have given Billions of Dollars for charity and are encouraging others to do the same. How does this successful mind think differently from VW mind-set? How is the human DNA created? If it is created by circumstances what better example can there be than German nation. What event changed this superb mind-set in Germany to cheat so blatantly! It is a classic case for psychologists. I as an engineer cannot fathom the reasons for such change in the mind. I could have also accepted some cheating, though not justified it, if it were done for a small duration because the launch of that specific product got delayed! Then cheat and launch so-called good product and then switch over to really good products after a small delay, good products has been VW specialty anyway.

Germans are proud about their quality products and German mind focuses on work, work and work in the good sense. Results are seen in Germany’s phoenix like rise post World War II. How current events will affect German psyche? How will German mind overcome this blatant cheating? I am sure they will do it by more work and more focus!

For those who want to read about this issue here is the link.