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Friday, November 19, 2021

Se7en Ways Legacy Automakers Need To Be Like Tesla To Survive in the 21st Century

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Let's say you are the CEO of a car company (big or small). How can you lead your company to play a pivotal role in the next evolution of personal transportation? How can you take advantage of your existing strengths while developing the prowess and skills that you need in this new age? How do you augment the acumen and managerial skills you already have to become a market leader? How can you help not just your company, but the broader society meet the challenges posed by this massive transition? How do you address issues related to climate, privacy, employment, income equality, and general well-being, among others — while still ensuring success for your enterprise? We'll explore this and more in our list of seven things leaders should think about. 

  1. Become accustomed to disruption - The auto industry has always been competitive, but disruption means that plans that have been years in the work may become irrelevant. Automakers are going to have to become agile. Don't fall into the sunk cost fallacy (I'm looking at you hydrogen). 

  2. Software is eating the world - Automobiles are/will be software-driven, whether it's the anti-lock brakes, motors controllers, battery management system, entertainment, or the user interface, it's software-controlled. And you need a full-time dedicated software development team to add more features, fix bugs, and improve things. Today, software is almost an afterthought for most auto OEMs. It is sadly apparent that the software in most cars is piecemeal and outsourced. This needs to be completely flipped on its head. The components of the car need to exist to serve the software and the user experience. Use software-first design! 

  3. Raise your technological acumen - Software is just one of the technologies that legacy automakers are sorely missing. It's time to grow a battery chemistry team, a battery management team, an energy efficiency HVAC team... Just depending on suppliers for these advancements means you'll have no competitive advantage. P.S. If you haven't partnered with an autonomous drive company already (or started your own), you're behind. 

  4. Innovate rapidly and openly - Traditionally automakers build behind closed doors until the big reveal day. This limits the ability to receive feedback. It leads to years of secretive work on a product that no one is interested in unless you spend millions on marketing to create demand. Instead, see which ideas capture customer/public interest and drive their own buzz. These are the products that will have word-of-mouth marketing. Your budget is better spent on engineering (items 2 and 3) than marketing yesterday's products!

  5. Collect data and learn from it - Your products need to become connected and you need to collect the wealth of data that they generate. How are your products being used, how are they failing, how can they be improved... everything from the most commonly used features and how many user actions (clicks, words, gestures...) are needed to (en/de) activate them. It's time to open an Amazon AWS account. Tap into the telemetry stream!

  6. Adopt innovative capital models - Get creative. Maybe, rather than just starting an internal EV line, spin out an EV start-up. Maintain a controlling interest and supplier sharing contracts, but give them the freedom to operate outside of your overbearing corporate governance. Something like Saturn (but with a better ending). An IPO could help kick start or accelerate the EV effort. You might even end up owning a cool new brand. 

  7. Focus on purpose and people, not product - A mission-driven company is something that people can fall in love with. Don't talk about what you will do, instead talk about what you have done and how this lays the foundation for better days ahead for all. This gets you fans, not just customers. The clean slate that #6 provides might be required to wash off that oily past. Sure you must drive to be a profitable company, but profits should be the secondary effect to fulling the bigger purpose, not the first-order goal.  
The world is not the slow-moving place that it once was. It's adapt or die time. We still take photos, just not with a Kodak camera. We still watch movies, just not from Blockbuster. During this transportation transition, which brands or companies that we know today, that seem indelible, will fall to Death's scythe and fade into the annals of history?

Major transitions are not easy:
How many typewriter companies are now making laptops? 
How many flip phone companies are now making smartphones? 
How many movie rental stores launched successful streaming services?
How many legacy automakers will master EVs, software, connected cars, and AI?
How many legacy automakers will exist in 2040? 
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