Blog: Dave LeggettLetter from sunny Stuttgart

Dave Leggett | 1 June 2005

This is coming to you from Stuttgart where I am attending the European Automotive Components exhibition and Engine Expo 2005. Plenty to see here and plenty of familiar faces to bump into; the respective shows look bigger than I expected in terms of exhibitor numbers and visitors. Yesterday, Frost & Sullivan hosted a useful ‘round table’ that examined some of the issues facing the industry under the broad heading of ‘automotive technologies for the future’.
There was a general consensus that, in spite of recent high profile problems with some electronics, new automotive technologies will continue to be a source of growth in the industry looking ahead, especially in the developed regions where the customer is demanding more. But it was also interesting to note the generally downbeat view on 42v electrical systems architecture that was not so long ago being talked about as the Next Big Thing.

Rob Simon (Director, North American Business Development and Marketing, JD Power) enjoys a small beer in Stuttgart's 'On Top' bier garten

We heard that there are costs involved on 42v that mean its widespread introduction will not happen until well into the next decade and also that more development work is needed. I guess 12v systems will just have to cope. And if global automotive industrial growth is increasingly concentrated in emerging markets in the future, that will perhaps not be driving more complex solutions.

There were also some provocative thoughts on future industrial restructuring in the supplier industry, with several panellists subscribing to the view that future consolidation will be more about bankruptcy and companies exiting the industry rather than M&A activity. The gap between the good companies and the bad ones is larger than ever, so the theory goes, and the good ones won’t see too much value in the industry’s weaker participants.

But there was something that I picked out of the Financial Times yesterday on the plane over that perhaps is relevant to some of the poorer companies around (and it made me laugh). It’s a spoof management slogan send-up: ‘Mediocrity: it takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice the difference until it’s too late’ (slogan accompanies picture of leaning tower of Pisa). But these days, customers – whether vehicle makers, Tier 1s or the final consumers – are picking up on mediocrity pretty quickly.

Anyway, I am now going to walk the show halls and further punish my feet. But I will be meeting some people for lunch at a beer garden overlooking the city, conveniently situated just outside the show grounds. Should be nice in the sunshine.


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