At the Frankfurt motor show it became apparent that the real challenges are yet to be faced for large parts of the automotive industry. But at the same time, the way out of the situation is becoming visible.
The 63rd IAA motor show in Frankfurt (Germany) has started with a gloomy note. The industry expects a slow recovery. And before a recovery can take place, many jobs will be lost. However, the innovation speed seems to pick up.
Robert Bosch GmbH as one of the world's largest automotive electronics suppliers will likely cut 8.000 jobs in its automotive branch alone amidst a revenue decline of some 20 percent, explained Bosch CEO Franz Fehrenbach in his speech at the company's IAA press conference.
Tier one Delphi recently announced some 200 job cuts, but EE Times Europe learned that the real number of jobs that will fall prey to Delphi's ongoing restructuring process is at least twice as high.
The industry is in an upheaval. Experts such as Stefan Bratzel, head of the Center of Automotive at the University of Applied Sciences Bergisch Gladbach predicted that for the tier ones the worst has yet to come. According to media releases, Bratzel expects between 30.000 and 50.000 jobs at automotive suppliers to be eliminated over the next months.
Not all of the jobs to be eliminated will be related to electronics, but the suppliers of electronic parts won't be spared completely. Fehrenbach pointed out that the structural challenges of the industry will become evident as the worst turbulences seem to be over.
However, it is obvious that the crisis also offers chances for experts in the field of electronics and related topics. More or less all enterprises along the automotive value chain highlight at the fair that they are working with high pressure on the development of greener cars and novel power trains which help to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emission. Apparently the crisis drives the innovation speed. "We are surprised how many innovations have been announced just in the two weeks ahead of the fair," said Matthias Wissmann, president of the German automotive industry association VDA.
In the realm of conventional internal combustion engines, many companies followed the downsizing approach with their exhibits. Combined with variants of mild hybrid techniques, the CO2 emission has been reduced significantly; some mid-size cars now even sport emissions of less than 100g per kilometer. Nevertheless, electric cars take center stage for instance Opel's Ampera, the European adaption of GM's Volt. Audi shows an impressive study of an electric sports car. The e-tron is equipped with four engines which brings them from zero to 100 km/h within 4.8 seconds. Unlike earlier designs the car has enough battery capacity for a 248 km trip. And besides its impressive technical parameters it is equipped with dozens of bells and whistles that give visitors a hint what kind of electronic add-ons can be expected in future e-cars.
Audi was also the company that highlighted the chances for electronics and for EEs in the crisis. The company announced to hire 100 engineers dedicated to the development of an electric car that will be closer to volume production than the e-tron. 100 engineers may appear a drop in a bucket compared to the job losses imminent to the industry. But Audi's move shows that innovation is the right strategy to overcome the crisis.