April 26 - 30 | 2021

Speaker Interview

Gerhard Nowak

Partner/ Vice President

Mercedes Benz

1. Could you tell us more about any projects you are working on currently and/or your area of expertise?

New business models for commercial vehicles in the area of autonomous trucks and digitized value chain. Development of corporate strategy in the light of powertrain conversion and any potential impact.

2. Do you see any strategies that the automotive industry can adopt to accelerate recovery post-COVID 19?

Increased business resilience will be a fundamental basis for fast recovery. Given the growing global instability, this will become more important to adopt capacities to market development and remain profitable. For our recent study “Peak Performer”, we have assessed the winning factors of the best performing companies during the last global financial crisis in 2008/2009. The results confirmed that a fast and consequent adoption of direct and indirect capacities to the lowered demand gave these companies the opportunity to get out of the crisis much faster and with higher profitability afterwards. This will also be applicable to the current crisis.

3. How can companies better anticipate risk and increase supply chain resilience post-COVID 19?

Carefully assess the supply chain situation with a strong view on the local situation of their suppliers. An option would be transferring components to suppliers closer to the factory. However, in many cases there are contractual obligations, which will prevent companies to do so.

4. How do you think industry can prepare its workforce for the current and upcoming challenges?

By carefully handling these challenges. It is vital to set up a robust digitized organization in order to run the business in a restricted environment. Ensure to set up a resilient supply chain, which can handle and adapt to changing supply situations. Especially for OEMs, it will be important to create new revenue pools and become more independent from first line sales revenues.

5. How is consumer demand for automotive shifting, and how will it look by 2030?

The consumers will shift their demand systematically to vehicles with alternative powertrain solutions. In the passenger car arena, we will see an increase in BEV. In the commercial vehicle arena, we will see a mixed picture: BEV and FCEV following the different use cases as e.g. distribution and long haul trucking. For public transport buses, we will see a lot more BEV buses.

6. What are the main ways in which digitisation is creating opportunities for automotive manufacturing?

The full digitization of the manufacturing and supply chain processes will help to improve process efficiency. At the same time, a timely and realistic forecasting is essential to be ready for any changes at suppliers and customers.

7. How are future technology trends changing patterns of collaboration with other actors (e.g. technology applications, research institutions, government bodies) for automotive innovation?

Collaborating will be one of the key drivers to fully explore the potentials of digitization.

8. What are the key ways that suppliers can start preparing now for the shift towards EVs?

Shift to EVs will only be relevant for companies active in the area of traditional powertrain solutions. We have already seen that these companies are preparing for this fundamental change. To reach these goals, a clear strategy and a focused acting afterwards will be necessary.

9. Why are second-life battery solutions important for electric vehicle manufacturers?

Depending on the use cases, the lifetime of batteries are shorter than for the entire vehicle. Customers will not accept low performing batteries and other/new ways of use in a second life will be necessary. The residual value of an EV highly depends on the battery performance and quick write offs might not be the solution.

10. What are some of the enduring challenges facing women in the automotive industry? How are companies working towards finding solutions?

While the technical areas in the automotive sector are still a highly male dominated, some fundamental changes are taking place. In order to get more diversity in technical functions, the starting point will be the proper education process in the so-called MINT studies.

 Aleksander Rzepecki