The automotive industry is currently being dogged by negative headlines. Last year was the year of spectacular recalls. Everything was also overshadowed by the never-ending exhaust scandal.
In addition, manufacturers and policymakers have been struggling with the issue of electromobility, and discussing why demand does not seem to take off. The German Parliament has just passed a law to aid purchases of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars in order provide some assistance. The plan is for there to be a 4000-Euro buyer’s bonus for electric cars and a 3000-Euro bonus for hybrids, each financed equally by the industry and the federal government. This is sure to get the market moving. But there are still questions: Are there any reports of new innovations from the industry itself, beyond mere funding? Or creative ideas which don’t end up as fake solutions, like developing software to manipulate exhaust gas readings?
Creative inspiration from a newcomer
In all areas of electromobility, which are flagging so much in this country that it requires aid from policymakers, a newcomer to the industry is heading onto the fast track. We all know who is meant here: Tesla. As the “Apple of the automotive industry”, Tesla is showing established car companies in particular that it is also possible to break new ground with vision, courage and incredible creativity. It’s not just about an innovative product and new technology; the business model itself is also spectacular and unique. The Californians are gearing themselves directly around customer needs, and are so ahead of their time that they have already sold more vehicles than they could probably build over the next two to three years. They have managed to revolutionize the image of the electric car. An electric car – cool and desirable? A lack of electric charging stations has meant German consumers are thinking more about a second car for short distances. How did the newcomer manage to gain such an advantage over its competitors?
Rethinking on every level
Continuing to do things the way they have always been done gets you nowhere. For several years now, I have been placing great emphasis on encouraging innovative spirit on every level in my role as interim manager, trainer and coach for automotive industry purchases. Interdisciplinary teams, co-operation between purchases and sales, early interlinking of processes in different departments, and close networking between their managers are all part of my strategies.
An environment of creativity must be established in order to maintain a breeding ground for visions and new ideas. Vision, competence and a sense of responsibility can all be fostered and I believe these values can and must be embraced and particularly exemplified by managers. If all areas of the company are part of the final product’s quality, innovation and marketing, visions can be formulated more boldly and – equally just as important – logically implemented. As a purchasing expert, I would especially like to mention the role of the purchasing department here, and call for a fundamental rethink. It is crucial that the purchaser be viewed as an active shaper of the company rather than a price-cutter. I also advocate the notion of purchasers maintaining good relationships with their suppliers, because motivated suppliers with reinforced innovative spirit also contribute to a product’s success. This innovative spirit is boosted by a co-operative partnership and can tip the scales when it comes to leading the competition.
Rethinking using the example of purchases
My vision for the purchaser of the future shows what I specifically mean by rethinking: They will be the manager of their product group, accept a lot of responsibility, have excellent intercultural communication skills and therefore be an all-rounder in a modern industrial establishment. In terms of management, there will be “cross-functional” teams with technical rather than disciplinary leaders. Purchasers will travel and always have their office with them. They will work on projects together with developers, technicians and sales staff in interdisciplinary teams. Everyone will ensure joint solutions are formulated. This change will provide companies with more creativity, more ideas and more future, provided the management wants it and exemplifies it.
It is a platitude to say that every crisis can be used as an opportunity, but it certainly is true for the messy situation in the automotive industry. The time has now come to learn from Tesla, to develop our own visions, and to unlock companies’ creativity.
Book description/Personal description
Tanja Dammann-Götsch has made a name for herself in the automotive purchasing industry worldwide as an interim manager, trainer and coach with her company PURCHASING PARTNER. The sought-after expert has been training and coaching managers in this field for more than 10 years. She also speaks at trade fairs and conferences. Prior to this, she spent 15 years as a manager in industry, including in the Training & Development division of one of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers. Tanja Dammann-Götsch lives in Hanau.