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Talent is the Currency (and Future) of the Automotive Industry

Key Takeaways:

  1. Talent is the currency of the automotive industry.
  2. Maintaining Michigan’s global leadership in mobility requires talent, infrastructure and innovative business models.
  3. Government and automotive leaders must work together to solve the data problem required for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Talent is the currency of the automotive industry — and considering it is the world’s most high-tech industry, attracting and retaining talent in Michigan must be a top priority.

“We need more new, fresh talent to keep the engine moving,” said Kevin Kerrigan.

Kerrigan, senior vice president of the Automotive Office for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., joined a panel of automotive experts in a session titled “A Profile of Michigan’s Auto Industry Present and Future” sponsored by Pure Michigan to kick off the 2015 MICHauto Summit.

As the global automotive industry transitions to an increasingly advanced technology-based sector, maintaining the state’s leadership in mobility and connected vehicle research and development also requires support for worker training programs and shifting the negative perception of the industry to one of cutting-edge excitement, Kerrigan said.

Promoting the MEDC’s new “We Run on Brainpower” campaign, Kerrigan said the state wants to show students that automotive is no longer a “rust belt.”

“From software developers to designers and engineers, it is a powerful connected time and we have to work hard to attract and retain the best and brightest,” he said.

A Profile of Michigan's Auto Industry Present and Future

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), said potential talent can be sold on Michigan’s next-generation innovation based on the shear amount of resources the state has dedicated to mobility, most notably the recent opening of Mcity, a 32-acre test site in Ann Arbor dedicated solely to connected and autonomous vehicles. Mcity is the only site of its kind in the United States.

“Other places are talking about it, we did it,” Steudle said. “There is a lot of great things happening in Michigan right now. It is the center of the universe for connected and autonomous vehicles.”

Promoting that message is something Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and Strategic Development for the Detroit Regional Chamber, hopes to improve upon through the newly-formed Michigan Mobility Initiative led by MICHauto.

“Michigan is the greatest center for testing, research and design of the smart mobility of the future and we need to make sure we tell the rest of the world about that,” Stevens said “but our world is changing. Today we see the megatrends that drive the way the world moves differently. Hyper-urbanization, scarcity of resources and demographic shifts are going to mean that people, goods and services need to move differently. It’s up to Michigan to be a leader in that area.”

Andreas Mai, director of Smart Connected Vehicles for Cisco Systems Inc., cautioned that Michigan’s automotive industry is facing an inflection point with mobility transformation, and outlined five key points for future success:

  • Manufacturers must go from building cars to selling personal travel time well spent
  • Michigan must close the technology gap by fostering talent retention and growth
  • OEMs must embrace the concept of sharing cars versus owning cars
  • Michigan must explore ways to converge personal and public mobility and deliver it to customers in a way that is easily consumable.
  • Government and automotive leaders must work together to develop new infrastructure to accommodate the amount of data that would be required for connected and autonomous vehicles on roadways.