For some years now, we have seen students and future engineers avoiding the automotive industry. Four probable reasons stand out to me:
- The decline of the American Big Three has left profound scars and an unfavourable image of our industry;
- New technologies have emerged with intelligent, connected devices and objects (the “Internet of Things”) creating a sphere where it appears easier to innovate products and markets with profitable margins, while at the same time the car as an object is generationally losing its appeal;
- Other activity sectors like banking or finance offer higher salaries, and
- The “Y” and Millennial generations’ expectations and relationships with the world are different to those of their Baby Boomer and Generation-X parents; today’s new workers expect a steady stream of new challenges and a dynamic job environment.
And yet, in fact the vehicle lighting and driver assistance world has never been so dynamic as it is today, and interesting and loaded with fast-paced challenge—and in need of large numbers of talented, passionate new engineers. So what do we do? Here are some ideas that have occurred to me:
- Internationalisation of our companies gives us some breathing room and flexibility. It allows us to be less sensitive to economic cycles, to offer international careers, and to provide opportunities to work in multicultural environments.
- We can, should, and must still generate attractivity for the car! Let’s show it through congresses, contacts with schools, publications, through our corporate communication, through everything we do and say that we are not an ageing, ossified industry but rather a lively, dynamic one permanently reinventing itself.
- Most important is the positive outlook of the automotive product itself. The automotive sector has been going through something of a renaissance recently. New lighting and driver assistance technologies (ADB!), advances in sensors and algorithms, rapidly evolving light sources and optical techniques and the new design prospects they unleash—these are prime movers.
As the International Consumer Electronics Show demonstrated last January, a growing number of tech startups and traditional consumer-electronics technology suppliers now target automotive as their next big market. CES really has become, in large part, the Automotive Electronics Show. High-tech startup companies willing to take a leap into the automotive sector are finding funding and promising futures. Clearly, lighting is shifting from hardware to software, from mechanics to digital. It’s very exciting, and it makes lots to talk about, so…let’s talk it up, loudly and proudly!
Do have a look at this week’s in-depth article. It’s extracted from a news story published early this year in the Los Angeles Times, and if anything it’s even more relevant now.
DVN Editor in Chief