As a member of the Automotive Communities Partnership (ACP), Michiana Partnership was in attendance with automakers and affiliates of the Center for Auto Research (CAR) during the North American International Auto Show and annual meeting in Detroit last month.
Despite the tumultuous national political stage, from an Automotive Communities Partnership (ACP) perspective, January 2017 began as usual, with the North American International Auto Show and our annual January meeting at the Detroit Renaissance Center. This meeting was the ACP’s largest yet, due in part to hosting members of Center for Auto Research (CAR)’s Affiliates program. Below is a recap of the meeting as well as the prior day’s tour.
On Wednesday afternoon, January 10th, ACP members were invited to tour a rather unique company: A2Mac1. This French-based, global company specializes in tearing down vehicles to their core and cataloguing each piece using specialized computer technology. Their clients include every major automaker, and these companies pay to access both scanned vehicle data and the actual parts their competitors use. It was interesting to get an up-close view of this automotive benchmarking company.
The following day, Thursday, January 11th, GM, once again, played gracious host to our group. ACP Director, Bernard Swiecki, began the meeting with a quick market overview, stating that though sales are likely to level off in the coming year, the auto industry is in a better position to handle any downturns than it has been in recent years.
GM’s, John Blanchard, then offered an official welcome, noting the ACP has met at GM in January for the past ten years. He also discussed some of GM’s products to check out on the show floor.
Thomas Klier, Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, focused his presentation on Mexico and the importance of trade within the NAFTA region. In particular, he commented on the relatively unusual situation that Mexico is in, where 80% of Mexican-produced vehicles are exported, and the vast majority of vehicles sold in Mexico are imported.
Sue Yingzi Su, Senior Economist at GM, stated she expects China’s economy to continue to moderate in 2017 as it continues to transition from an export-driven economy to a consumption one. She also discussed Canada, noting that country has one of the best-managed economies in the developed world and that its GDP growth is highly synced with that of the U.S. She believes the auto industry has a few more years of growth before the next plateau occurs.
Dave Andrea, CAR’s EVP of Research, discussed the auto industry’s quest to differentiate product. Vehicles used to be all about the look, feel, and horsepower. These remain important, but now key a differentiator is the functionality of its software. He also announced CAR’s 2017 sales forecast: 17.5M vehicles.
Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive focused his presentation on products in the global industry. He stated the number of new and redesigned vehicles will increase significantly in the coming four years, thus increasing competition and incentives among industry players.
Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA)’s, Charles Chesbrough, provided the supplier perspective, and is generally optimistic on the industry’s direction. He did offer concerns, however, about workforce availability, particularly for engineers and programmers as vehicles become increasingly software-focused.