Unprecedented. Trying times. The new normal. These words have been used by many to describe 2020. For so many of us, 2021 cannot come soon enough. Yet, especially now, it’s more important than ever to reflect — looking through the lens of lessons learned in our economy, manufacturing and the automotive industry ecosystem — and how we can apply those lessons to help adapt to and chart the coming years.
A few key things to consider — we’ve learned that the economy is both more robust and more delicate at the same time — newer technologies and digitally enabled businesses are flying, while those with inflexible models are having issues during the pandemic. We’ve learned that we need to rethink our educational system’s use of technology and advance that to the requirements of the new normal and how that will shape the automotive work force of the future.
I have also learned that down deep at the core, people have hope. And that is a great lesson and an important concept to keep in mind. Why, you ask? Because happy, hopeful people often also spend money. They invest in things. They buy homes. They travel. They go to restaurants. They buy cars.
Here are my 2021 predictions for the automotive industry:
1. There will be significantly higher automotive sales post COVID-19 than is currently being predicted for North America and Europe. The IHS Markit forecast for North America in 2021, as shown in April 2020, was approximately 17.4 million. Currently, IHS Markit is saying that demand will now reach 18.82 million. I predict that pent-up demand will send this number higher — into the 19 million range — as people get vaccinated for COVID-19 and governments end restrictions on their movement.
It’s going to be a long winter with respect to the virus, and the numbers are skyrocketing, but when we emerge on the other side, emotions will be riding high and people are going to buy cars, among other things.
2. There is good news and bad news for companies that aspire to manufacture electric vehicles. More country and local government requirements worldwide aimed at driving lower carbon emissions and higher fuel mileage will push the onset of EVs. That’s the good news, and it isn’t that hard to predict.
The other part is the real prediction — companies that are trying to release EVs in the 2021 calendar year will be delayed. As I look across the slate of vehicles that will be released, I see significant start-of-production delays coming, both for new companies and older manufacturers alike.
Some delays are due to the startups simply not knowing how to get their back offices in order, or how to fully translate their designs into production execution just yet, while others relate to supply chain and other reasons.
The bottom line is that the selection of electric vehicles currently available for sale will probably look very similar until the same time in 2021. There won’t be nearly as many different models ready for sale as some in the industry are predicting.
I love what I see from the design and performance aspects of EVs, but expect delays, delays, delays.
3. After several false starts with Industry 4.0 initiatives, automakers and suppliers will start to aggressively adopt anything that either automates repetitive business processes and/or drives decision making through analytics and predictive analytics.
There is simply too much money being left on the table, and companies will not want to fall behind. Look for an upswing.