Automotive Industry Trends

I’ve been following the automotive industry for several years. Recently it’s become clear to me that the growth of hybrids will drive demand for new technologies. At last week’s SCIP meeting in Milwaukee, I heard a great discussion that helped me get a better fix on some of these trends.


By 2015, the supply of lithium-ion batteries will outweigh demand by about 62 percent according to Mary Ann Wright, manager of advanced auto batteries for Johnson Controls. Some industry analysts see a supply squeeze in the coming years as demand from electric vehicles heats up. Where do these predictions come from? How does the organization use environmental scanning to make better decisions?

The panelists were from Rockwell Automation and Johnson Controls. Here are my take-aways…

  • It is important to build market intelligence expertise within a manufacturing company. Operatives in regions around the globe can provide the best information. Data purchased from external sources is suspect. Battery forecasts are “all over the place.”

  • Turning information into intelligence is like putting together a puzzle. Listen to both the sales force and the plant manager. Engage the industry expert and converse with the chatty one on the airplane. Trade shows aren’t the best place to learn something new but they can validate what you already know.

  • Everyone is focused on China and emerging markets. Of course all industry players trying to protect their share must be prepared to take on new competitors selling cheaper products. It’s tough to figure out what’s going on when there is no infrastructure in place to gather market data. Language barriers exist within the country as well as outside. Patent protection is suspect.

I left the meeting thinking that there are collaborative research opportunities with manufacturers trying to provide products to support the hybrid revolution.