With continuing rapid advancements in technology, the automotive industry is positioning itself all together for a new industry – mobility.
In a meeting on Tuesday about mobility, with the Detroit Economic Club, three of Southeast Michigan’s top auto supplier executives spoke on mobility, and their place in it. David Dauch, chairman and CEO of American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc.; Matt Simoncini, president and CEO of Lear Corp.; and James Verrier, president and CEO of BorgWarner Inc. are all navigating their companies through a transformation in the ever-changing auto industry.
“We’ve got to be agile; (mobility) is no one thing,” Verrier said to the sold-out crowd. “We have to be anticipating those trends, understanding them and building a value proposition around them to be successful.”
There are many ways that the success Verrier discusses is achieved. BorgWarner is achieving it by doubling down on its propulsion technologies for use in self-driving and connected cars. Lear is choosing to invest in startups that are focused on the software that it can integrate into seats. Meanwhile, American Axle is diversifying its products for use in electric vehicles and other alternative systems.
“Ride sharing is what our customers are investing in and it creates a huge opportunity for production,” Simoncini said. “What we need to be able to do is create a car that can hold up (to constant use). We can’t have a seat wear out because of constant use. We’re just scratching the surface.”
He believes mobility is a big opportunity in the Detroit area.
“It is a competition,” Simoncini said. “It is us against them. It’s us against Silicon Valley. It’s us against CES (Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas). It’s us against SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association, also in Las Vegas). We have to go out and grab our birthright. I’m fearful as an auto executive and a native Detroiter that we’re going to lose this …”
Meanwhile, Verrier takes a different approach.
“I think Detroit and Silicon Valley can be one,” Verrier said. “There’s some healthy competition, sure, but bringing both of those things together can bring a better result.”
However, the conversation quickly turned to a conversation about the Trump administration and relative policies.
“We need the best tax policy to compete,” Dauch said, referencing the need for a reduced corporate tax rate, which is at 35 percent. However, Trump campaigned to lower the tax rate to 15 percent.