Automotive Landscape and Business Drivers – Part 1

By Conor Peick

Welcome to Automotive EE Systems Revolution – a brand new series of podcasts from the Integrated Electrical Systems Group of Siemens Digital Industries Software. In this series, we’ll be focusing on automotive industry trends and the electrical and electronic systems, networks, and software within a vehicle.

The automotive industry is in the middle of a major shift. The electrical, electronic and software content of vehicles continues to grow, both incentivizing and necessitating new organizational structures and business models. At the same time, the level of competition is increasing as startups, tech companies and traditional OEMs all vie to bring innovative vehicles to market. In episode 1, we discuss the major changes in the automotive industry over the past 10 years, the challenges OEMs have to face today, and what the future looks like. Please enjoy!

Automotive Landscape and Business Drivers

Welcome to Automotive EE Systems Revolution – a brand new series of podcasts from the Integrated Electrical Systems Group of Siemens Digital Industries Software. In this series, we’ll be focusing on automotive industry trends and the electrical and electronic systems, networks, and software within a vehicle.

The automotive industry is in the middle of a major shift. The electrical, electronic, and software content of vehicles continues to grow, both incentivizing and necessitating new organizational structures and business models. At the same time, the level of competition is increasing as startups, tech companies, and traditional OEMs, all vie to bring innovative vehicles to market.

I am your host, Conor Peick, and I am joined by a duo of experts with impressive resumes and decades of industry experience – Doug Burcicki and Dan Scott. Together, in this first episode, we discuss the major changes that happened in the automotive industry over the past 10 years, what are the challenges OEMs have to face today, and how the future looks like.

Doug Burcicki is the Global Director of the Automotive & Transportation Heavy Equipment Industries, within Integrated Electrical Systems, part of the Siemens Digital Industries Software.

Dan Scott is the Marketing Director within Integrated Electrical Systems and has previously worked in the automotive industry for 15 years, in a variety of different roles, from Chief Engineer to Sales, to Project Management, working for a variety of suppliers, tier ones, and OEMs.

Tune in to find out more about the industry trends and the drivers of innovation that will bring the automotive landscape to new heights!

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The state of the industry today, and the drivers of innovation. (01:25)
  • The holy grail of the auto industry today and why we’re years away from it. (03:56)
  • How traditional OEMs have to adapt to the current market. (04:40)
  • The changes that have occurred in the past 10 years. (06:31)
  • The different types of complexity that are challenging OEMs today. (09:58)
  • The role integration plays in today’s automotive company structure. (11:52)
  • How the next 10 years will look like, in the automotive industry. (14:18)
  • How the EVs were viewed in the past and what the future holds for them. (17:06)
  • What a company needs to focus on, to be successful in this industry. (21:36)

Let’s connect!

Connect with Doug:

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Transcript of Episode 1

Hello, and welcome to Automotive E/E Systems Revolution, a brand new series of podcasts from the Integrated Electrical Systems group of Siemens Digital Industries Software focusing on the automotive industry, trends, and the electrical and electronic systems, networks, and software in particular. My name is Conor Peick, and I’ll be your host and moderator as we dive into this fascinating topic. But first, let’s meet the duo of experts that will be joining me:

[00:00:30.22] Doug Burcicki: My name is Doug Burcicki – I’m responsible for the Automotive & Transportation Heavy Equipment Industries within Integrated Electrical Systems, part of the Digital Industry Software organization, within Siemens.

[00:00:43.21] Dan Scott: I’m Dan Scott. I’m also from the Integrated Electrical Systems segment. I’m the Marketing Director. Previous background: I’ve worked in the automotive industry for 15 years or so in a variety of different roles from Chief Engineer, to Sales, to Project Management, working for a variety of suppliers, tier ones, and OEMs.

Doug and Dan are both the owners of impressive resumes and decades of industry experience. Throughout this series, I will do my best to tap into their expertise to illuminate current trends in the automotive industry, including the development of advanced E/E systems. To begin today’s discussion, I asked Doug and Dan to describe the state of the industry today, and what’s driving innovation.

[00:01:32.04] Doug Burcicki: Yeah, that’s obviously a very large question. I guess one way to start is just to look at the headlines, some of the things that we see and hear about every day. We know that there’s been a tremendous amount of focus from players traditionally not part of the automotive industry, over the past 10 years have been investing in and moving into the market, challenging the incumbents and the legacy OEMs, both from a traditional model perspective or business model perspective as far as putting a competitive product out on the market. But they’ve also introduced a new approach to the business models and an expansion of the business models, so to speak. They found new ways to generate revenue and profits that go beyond the traditional sale of a vehicle to a consumer. They’ve developed ways to try to monetize that hardware after the point of sale, much to the same extent of the business model, as you would see with the mobile phone industry, that’s evolved over the last 10 to 15 years, where most of those companies make their money on apps and software sales after the hardware – the phone itself – is sold to the consumer. And you’re seeing automobile turning into that type of product in the marketplace today.

[00:02:49.09] Dan Scott: Yeah, and from my perspective, like Doug is saying, it’s been quite an unprecedented last decade or two in the automotive industry, I think. Just that shift we’ve had of 70 or 80 years of kind of predominantly mechanical machines – whether that’s hydraulics or mechanical – and just, you know, over the last sort of, well, I guess even from the early ‘90s, from getting ABS braking and things coming in, is beginning to increase. And certainly over the last 15 to 10 years or so, just a real acceleration in EE systems, and electronics and software coming into the vehicle, which is really kind of driving some of the stuff Doug’s talking about – some of those changes and shifts in business models, and that kind of whole landscape that’s enabled new entrants to come in – new players into the industry – from areas that 20 years ago you would never have considered you’d be having companies coming in from traditional software backgrounds.

[00:03:50.21] Doug Burcicki: See, those observations are very accurate with what we see every day. And we hear headlines about all these, for lack of a better term, ‘sexy trends’, things like autonomous vehicles. You know, it’s the holy grail, if you would, in the auto industry right now to have the first truly level-five capable system developed out there. And we’re years away from that for a multitude of reasons but the ultimate objective is no different. But there’s a lot of steps in between that we’re going to get to on the way, such as a greater proliferation of ADAS systems that enable the users of the vehicles to drive more effectively, efficiently, and quite honestly, just safer, both for themselves as well as pedestrians on the street. And those advances in technology are needed to hit those interim milestones along the way. And, as Dan said, there’s been a gradual and consistent migration from mechanical to electrical and electronic and now we’re moving into a software-defined vehicle era. It’s a much different environment than these OEMs that have existed in many cases for well over 100 years, where they’re developing the traditional vehicles that we’ve been driving for decades, as well as trying to develop the capabilities to meet these new entrants into the market that they have to compete with.  

[00:05:34.23] Doug Burcicki: So, they have to adapt. And it’s not just technology, it’s the way they’re structured, it’s the skill sets they hire, it’s how they develop the product, it’s the validation and timing of their development activities across multiple domains, that all have to be managed in a much different manner if they’re going to bring together what’s essentially a holistic vehicle environment, if you’re going to attain these levels of ADAS and autonomy. Not to mention just even a more fundamental aspect of these vehicles, which is the electrification of the vehicle itself, moving away from combustion engine designs, or hybrid engines into 100% BEV architecture or rechargeable architecture that drives different vehicle configurations. And it’s electrical, it’s mechanical, it’s software, it’s the network in the vehicle itself – they’re all interrelated and interdependent. And that’s where Siemens has something to offer and contribute to this evolution of the industry Siemens has spent a lot of time, money, and effort in integrating different cross-functional capabilities that quite honestly don’t exist in any other company in the world to the extent that we offer them.  

[00:07:31.06] Conor Peick: So, overall, we have an industry that is experiencing a lot of change and is revolutionizing in many ways, as you mentioned, Doug. I’m curious if we could dive into the path that has led us here, the changes that have occurred over the last maybe 10 years, or however far back we need to go. But I suppose, in particular, we’ve talked about this steady transition from mechanical to electrical and electronics, and now we’re switching into software-defined vehicles. I’m curious to get your guys’ comments on that transition, and how that’s kind of set up, where the industry is, and where it’s going today?

[00:08:07.15] Dan Scott: I think it’s an interesting one. If you look at it not just from a technology point of view, but from an organizational point of view, where you have existing incumbent OEMs, coming from predominantly – not exclusively, but predominantly – from that mechanical background and electrical maybe, and needing to make that shift into software, into networks, into caring more about the details of the electronics, about the ICs and about some of those things, which historically has been very much pushed out to tier one or to tier two suppliers. I think what that’s causing is a massive reexamining for traditional OEMs of their core competencies, and where they can really add value. I think it’s interesting when you kind of compare them to startups, or to new entrants, who’ve kind of come in with natively more software skills – they’re coming in, and they’re kind of used to the rapid development cycles, and their agile processes and ways of iterating. But they’re kind of coming up and hitting against – you know, even companies like Tesla – hitting against when you get into manufacturing vehicles, in large numbers, there’s a whole load of IP and skill and knowledge and experience that goes around that, and actually getting vehicles homologated and into production – you know a second nature and well established and developed for existing automotive OEMs – that startups are having to bat up against and get products into the market. Whereas, obviously, on the flip side, for the traditional OEMs, they kind of know that stuff but that shift from the longer cycles of product development into, like Doug was just saying before, into these much faster iterations, over-the-air updates, and functionality being pushed out to vehicles post-production. I think those are some of the both cultural and skills challenges that the automotive industry is continuing to really grapple with, to be honest in terms of how do they kind of manage that? Do they set up separate business units of just the software guys? Do they try and integrate them into existing product teams? How do they kind of manage that in a way that enables all of the different domains that need to integrate and talk together to actually produce these super complicated vehicles, with networks, embedded software, electrical, mechanical, hydraulics – everything that needs to come together into one integrated package to deliver the features, the functionality that the customers are looking for. I think they’re super hard questions and things which organizations are grappling with, at the moment.

[00:10:44.18] Doug Burcicki: All these things boil down to the business, right? At the end of the day, all of these companies, aside from the cars and the technology, they have to be profitable, they have to make money, they have to return profits to their shareholders. So, there’s business challenges that they struggle with. And in my experience, I’ve seen that in the last 10 years, the increasing levels of complexity is one of the biggest challenges for any of these companies, no matter what size they are, or not. And it’s different types of complexity. You have sheer part number complexity, where you have vehicle variants that could have literally millions of part-number combinations, depending on which feature options the consumer desires on that vehicle. You also have the complexity of subsystem integration; you know, an example of that is an active cruise control system was essentially an integration of multiple systems before there was just a cruise control system, right? And all it monitored was your vehicle, not anything around it. And then, obviously, an active cruise control system integrates additional sensors and sensor fusion and analysis. And then, it actually acts on that analyze-data input. So, now you have an interactive system. And then you start integrating these systems further to come up with safety packages, that are cross-functional with lane departure warning systems, auto parking systems, concierge systems, or valet systems. There’s an inner increasing level of interoperability and a subsystem functionality that didn’t exist just five years ago.

[00:12:19.21] Doug Burcicki: And those engineering teams, the tools that they work on are different. They don’t communicate with each other. You have engineers and groups that handoff data to other engineers and groups that they didn’t have to even consider in the past. And they don’t communicate and talk and they’re not organized to operate in that fashion historically, so they have to go through a business process transformation, as well as an organizational transformation. So, a lot of these challenges manifest themselves in different ways. It’s not just the complexity that you have to address. It’s your organization in order to address the complexity. So, it goes back to the point that Dan was making about those challenges are not just in tools or process. And that integration is becoming more and more and more of a top-five concern for any engineering leader in these companies. Again, because of the speed of change, historically, we haven’t developed engineering teams that if you were a hardware engineering, you didn’t really care about the software or the network that the device that you were designing connected or interfaced to. But those days are gone, where these companies are trying to make holistic design decisions because there are trade-offs, there are impacts; the lines of code, the software you write has a direct impact on the physical EDS or wiring implementation, which has a direct impact on weight, which has a direct impact on vehicle range. So these things are all intertwined, and they can’t be developed independently in silos.

[00:13:51.06] Doug Burcicki: And I would say probably the single biggest challenge that all of these companies face – and it’s because they have to balance; they can always do things faster, but then it means with less quality or reliability. And that’s the speed to market – just development, speed, and turnaround. There’s a continuous effort to shorten development time to get the automobile products more in line with consumer electronics and the content that is driving the connectivity, the connected aspect of the vehicles, which consumers – to them – is one of the number one priorities when they make a purchase these days, at least in the younger generations and the future buyers of these vehicles that the OEMs are concerned about.  

It’s, again, when you put the power and experience from an OEM that’s been building real-world cars for 100 years, and they apply themselves to these greater initiatives, technology-wise, I think you’ll see some of them close the gap relatively quickly on where some of the new entrants are. So, there’s been a lot going on in the last 10 years, but I think the next 10 years are gonna be even more exciting, personally.

[00:17:09.04] Conor Peick: Yes, that’s an interesting direction, I think that we could take our discussion to, what do the next 10 years look like? And maybe a few things I’d like you guys to discuss in particular is, Doug, you mentioned legacy OEMs being at a crossroads perhaps, at a point of where they need to start transitioning to meet these new demands for connectivity, and technology, and automation – all these types of things. Where do you see the next 10 years of this industry moving?

[00:17:39.07] Doug Burcicki: In the next 10 years is really going to be about execution. I think a lot of companies have been developing strategies and putting some pieces together whether, like I said, they’ve developed internal groups or capabilities, or carved out teams to focus on new and emerging areas of focus, or acquired entities. Like, GM acquired Cruise Automation years ago to get a head start on autonomous vehicle technologies. And they’ve applied aspects of that to their core business, but they’ve essentially run it as a separate standalone entity for the most part. And they recently invested in Nikola Trucks – they’re going to license their battery cell technology to Nikola and they’re also going to actually produce the physical vehicles for them, themselves. So, you see these different business models or different approaches to business that you wouldn’t have historically seen. Rivian is another good example. Their business model from day one was to develop their own vehicle, but also to develop on a platform that they would license the technology out to competitors or other players in the industry. You know, they’ve been very successful in doing that, with multiple OEMs – Ford, Rivian, and Cox Automotive are very heavily invested in them. And now, they have other burgeoning relationships with other OEMs to supply them with EV powertrain.

[00:18:55.10] Doug Burcicki: So, there’s different models out there that are working and they’re being valued and recognized. I think for the legacy OEMs, like I said before, they are responding to these challenges, but they can’t just walk away from their current core business. So, it’s really, really challenging for them, because they’re still trying to develop that portfolio of vehicles that they’ve been supporting for decades – and you can’t just flip a switch and change everything to an electrified vehicle powertrain or an autonomous vehicle, right? It takes years and years of development and concerted effort and expense. And the problem is, the return on some of that investment is quite a ways away, right? So, it’s hard for them to justify pouring all of that focus and investment into areas where they don’t see the monetary return for years, if not decades. So, they’ve been a little bit slower about it because they’ve had to be. They’ve had to be more measured in their successes and their risk, but you’re seeing that they’re making those hard shifts. Mercedes has already made a hard commitment to be a fully electrified portfolio of products, Volvo has done the same, GM is on a path to do the same. So, you’re seeing that shift, and those decisions are taking place.

[00:21:17.11] Doug Burcicki: I think that the OEMs are in a race, I think that they all know that the only way to get there is through significant investment – and a large part of that investment is in our electrical architectures. So, if you look at where EVs have been over the last 20 years, you know, they’ve been like kind of a fringe commodity – or actually not a commodity, just almost like a toy or anything to have for certain segments of the consumers, but very small segments. And part of it’s just because they’ve been ugly. They haven’t been attractive vehicles at all. A lot of that goes back to the fact that they’ve been built on vehicle chassis and frames and architectures that were originally designed for internal combustion engines. So, packaging wasn’t right, it wasn’t great, the battery technology wasn’t where it needed to be to optimize packaging available. There’s just been a tremendous amount of advancements in the area that have gotten to the point where OEMs have very cost-effectively built bespoke architectures around EV-intended vehicles from day one, not retrofitted vehicles. And now you’re seeing a generation of vehicles that are beautiful, they’re fun to drive, they’re attractive – they’re some of the most attractive vehicles on the market in some cases – and people want to buy them for compelling reasons now. And the business proposition behind EVs is becoming much more attainable for the average consumer as well.

[00:22:45.06] Doug Burcicki: And so, now we’re getting to the point where the big players in the industry are committing to economies of scale – in many cases, like GM and Tesla developing their own battery plants. So, you’re going to see the economies of scale come into play now and it will become a more accessible, more affordable option for the everyday consumer. So, that is where I think we’re going to see the greatest technology evolution in the auto space over the next 10 years. And I think in parallel, behind the scenes will be the continuous evolvement of AV. But I think what’s really going to drive the AV is level two, three, and to a certain extent, four capabilities. And a large part of that’s just driven by the legal requirements out of Europe with the NCAP requirements; a lot of things that are optional features in North America, from a safety perspective, are going to become de facto standard features on every vehicle sold in Europe. So again, that’s just going to make these things more accessible and affordable.  

[00:24:42.12] Conor Peick: Yeah. Dan, what do you think?

[00:24:44.18] Dan Scott: I think Doug’s right, in terms of certain comments around the acceleration of movement to electric vehicles. Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a similar – backing off isn’t the right word, but maybe a de-prioritization of some of those level four, level five EV, AV push for autonomous vehicles. I thought that was interesting, I was reading yesterday, actually, and the German government – I think it was Angela Merkel herself, who was kind of making comments on a proposal, where they’re going to allow level four or five vehicles to be tested in Germany is going to get put into German law sometime in the next 12 months or proposed for that. Again, it’s interesting, like, the same in California. You get different pockets, and I guess that’s why it’s hard kind of commenting on automotive as a whole, is that there’s very different emphases in different regions. So, in China, there’s a massive electric vehicle market, relatively. In the US slightly less so. In Norway, huge. In the UK, relatively small. So I think it’s gonna be quite a lot of localization in terms of some of these trends for electric vehicle autonomy, or what have you.

[00:26:02.12] Dan Scott: I do think one of the things Doug was saying just before, as well, around that move to virtual validation, and it’s a bit more on the kind of process side rather than the business approach. But I think that the pain that organizations feel when they hit those integration points is very real, I think. As this level of complexity in vehicles has really exploded, it’s become more obvious that that’s a pain point. I mean, I remember even from my days, when I was a control software engineer, and I’d get into a prototype vehicle that we’ve just written some software for and, you know, you’re kind of turning on hoping that I made the same assumptions about the way the network signals were scaled, as the network design guys did or the electrical guys made about the networks or what have you. And just that level of integration when you’ve got batteries, and you’ve got power electronics, and you’ve got high-speed motors, and you’ve got layered on top of that all of the autonomous stuff in terms of lidar and radar and all of these different technologies, and the amount of data massively increasing, keeping organizations aligned and keeping development processes for these parallel domains aligned, you’ve got to be coming over the next 10 years to be one of the highest priorities for development organizations, to really get products to market, not even just quickly, but just get them to market in a way that they’re reliable and robust and you’re not having massive warranty issues because of challenges, and you’re able to kind of test vehicles and get a higher level of confidence much, much earlier in the development process. And I know every organization is really trying to push towards that and I think the ones that will really succeed are the ones that are more able to coordinate between these different development streams, whether that’s electrical, software, mechanical, what have you. And a lot of that is around having tools and processes and underlying data that can be exchanged, that can be integrated, that can be used together and so people are not working off their own separate assumptions but there’s a common approach to things as a greater coherency, in terms of how products are developed. People are able to get a snapshot across multiple domains rather than just their own particular little silo that they’re looking at. So, I think all these technology trends I was kind of mentioning, these high-level things are kind of really driving shifts in organizations and the ones that can adapt to those best, I think will succeed. And I think that’s been even as we kind of speak to our customers around the world, that’s what we’re seeing, as you see the different levels of maturity in product development for different organizations. You see the ones kind of succeeding that are more able to embrace digitalization and some of these other things that change the way they develop products.

So, the automotive industry is in the middle of a major shift. The electrical, electronic and software content of vehicles continues to grow, both incentivizing and necessitating new organizational structures and business models. At the same time, the level of competition is increasing as startups, tech companies and traditional OEMs all vie to bring innovative vehicles to market. In episode two, Doug, Dan and I continue our discussion and consider some of the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the automotive industry. This has been Automotive E/E Systems Revolution, I am your host Conor Peick, thank you very much for listening!

Doug Burcicki - Global Director Automotive & Transportation - Integrated Electrical Systems

Doug Burcicki – Global Director Automotive & Transportation – Integrated Electrical Systems

Doug Burcicki is the Automotive Market Director for the IES team at Siemens. Prior to, Doug was Director, Advanced Business Development at Yazaki, a globally focused role in which he was responsible for identification of Product and Technology trends resultant from Market, Regulatory and Economic indicators. He established a global process for prioritization of R&D projects, resources and investment as opposed to disparate regional strategies and built the business case to enable and support new portfolio development. Prior to this Doug was Vice President for the Yazaki General Motors BU responsible for global P&L, sales strategy and overall customer relationship driving significant success at the account. Doug holds a Masters in Automotive Engineering (Mechanical focus) from Lawrence Technological University, MAE and Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Wayne State University, BSEE.

Dan Scott - Marketing Director - Integrated Electrical Systems Division

Dan Scott – Marketing Director – Integrated Electrical Systems Division

Dan Scott is the Marketing Director for Integrated Electrical Systems at Siemens Digital Industries Software. He is responsible for Capital, Siemens’ E/E systems development portfolio.  This encompasses E/E architecture, electrical systems, communication networks and AUTOSAR embedded software products. He has experience working for OEM’s, suppliers and consultancies in the auto and aero industries, including at Ricardo, Frost EV Systems, Tata Motors and Rolls-Royce. He has published several academic & industry papers on vehicle electrification and system optimisation.

Conor Peick - Thought Leadership Writer

Conor Peick – Thought Leadership Writer

Conor Peick is a Marketing Coordinator helping to create forward-looking content for the Thought Leadership team at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Conor collaborates with seasoned industry experts to produce podcasts, articles, blogs, and other forms of content focused on the trends and challenges companies face in the future, and the technologies that may provide solutions.

Automotive E/E Systems Revolution Podcast Podcast

Automotive E/E Systems Revolution Podcast

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/podcasts/automotive-systems-revolution/automotive-landscape-and-business-drivers-part-1/