Louis Schweitzer, former Renault CEO from 1992 to 2005, left Renault when he was around 62 old. A few years later, he is appointed as the head of AB Volvo Truck. Many similar examples can be presented. What does it mean?
It means that we need experts to lead automotive companies as we need experts to develop technologies, manufacturing experts to produce, financial or marketing experts as well. Facing a situation wherein production sites are moving to low-cost countries, and where new Chinese or Indian companies are strongly competing with western companies, the only chance for Western companies to succeed is through continuous innovation, finding new products and new technologies which mean value for customers.
Here is our advice to confront this crisis:
Experts’ knowledge is the critical key to be able to compete with low-cost companies. Our management should invest in these experts and not thoughtlessly fire them when they reach some arbitrary age, even if younger employees can be paid less money. Firing experts saves money in the short term but is a grave error in the long run—the worst solution for the future.
In lighting, for instance, Vario-X, AFX, TriXenon, S-class and A8 headlamps have all been made possible only thanks to skilled experts from lighting suppliers but also car makers. Innovation is the unique issue to succeed and experts’ Knowledge is the trump card when competing with low cost companies. Got an expert in the house? Keep him well-fed and happy, push him to attend congresses!