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Connected cars and what they mean for automotive recruitment

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From the defensive gadgets built in to James Bond’s Aston Martin to the time-travelling capabilities of Doc Brown’s DeLorean, augmenting vehicles with inventive technologies has long been a fictional staple. But there is some truth to the idea. While the likes of ejector seats, smokescreens and temporal-physics-defying contraptions are yet to make an appearance on even the most ambitious concept cars, a new wave of technology has entered the automotive industry and threatens to completely revolutionise the market.

Connected cars are changing the automotive market, resulting in a greater need for companies to hire tech specialists
(Image via Wiki)

The Current Picture

We’ve all heard of driverless cars and while there does appear to be an appetite for them, the market is still far too immature to consider passing over complete control of a high speed, often highly complicated journey to a computer just yet. Instead, consumers want something that meets their technological needs and desires while also giving them control. That’s where connected cars come in. And really, what’s not to like? According to manufacturers, greater interconnectivity can improve car safety, shorten journey times, raise efficiency, and even put an end to traffic jams. Who’s going to say no to that?

Self-driving vehicles, wi-fi connectivity and enhanced safety features are all essential features for those in the automotive industry

The growth of the connected cars market has been colossal, largely consumer driven and aligns with the increased use of tech in almost every other field. According to a study of drivers in Brazil, Germany, China and the US, 13% of consumers won’t even consider a car without internet access and more than a quarter prioritise connectivity over previously essential elements like engine power and fuel efficiency.

It’s not actually that new a concept and the more experienced veterans among you may remember GM kicking off the trend back in 1996 by bringing connected features to market with its partnership with OnStar, Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Electronics Corporation, which resulted in the development of the Cadillac DeVille, Seville and Eldorado models.

Of course, the iPhone was just a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye back at this point so the technology’s main purpose was improving safety by allowing drivers to directly contact emergency services in the event of a crash. Manufacturers began to pick up on the potential of connected cars and ramped up their research and development accordingly. 

The 2014 Audi A3 was the first to offer 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspots
(Image via Audi)

The market progressed steadily from that point and took a big leap forward with the launch of the Audi A3 in 2014, the first car to offer 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspots followed shortly after by the first deployment of 4G LTE, again led by GM.

And now car connectivity has grown to a point where you’d be hard pressed to find too many manufacturers still producing a traditional chassis-and engine vehicle without any traces of connectivity, in the Western world at least. 

Intersection movement assistance, speed alerts, lane change and spot warnings are just some of the safety features that connected vehicle technology is implementing
(Image via Shutterstock)

The uses – as we all know – are widespread and highly varied. Car connectivity can encompass things like allowing taxis to automatically let passengers know when they’ve arrived to pick them up, all the way through to cutting edge live safety and diagnostics checks. It can also include factors like forward collision, lane change and spot warnings, parking and intersection movement assistance and speed and safety alerts, to name just a few. 

The car you drove to work today or at the weekend will most likely possess at least one form of the aforementioned connected devices or apps and, while this may already seem like a significant amount of tech to have in any one vehicle, we really haven’t seen anything yet. The market is guaranteed to continue growing as technology gains an ever stronger footing in almost everything around us. 

And for traditional manufacturers that poses a serious issue.

Tech and entertainment companies are partnering with automotive brands to implement their features within the vehicles
(Image via Audi)

With greater numbers of external firms eyeing up the automotive industry, the need for change and an increased focus on technology is critical.

In fact, according to a report by PwC on the future connected car market, traditional car manufacturers can expect their share of the $120bn profit the industry produces to fall from 70% to 50% by 2030. And the margin will be picked up by firms that don’t even have a presence in the automotive industry yet. Firms with a tech specialism who threaten to upset the very nature and status quo of the industry itself. 

The OAA was set up by Google to partner with major car brands and integrate their Android platform
(Image via OAA)

The major tech players are already beginning to muscle in. Google launched the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) in 2014, a group of industry leaders committed to bring Android platforms to cars, while that same year Apple announced its new system to link various iPhone models to car infotainment units via a connector called CarPlay. That’s before we even mention highly disruptive firms like Tesla, which essentially threaten to turn the market on its head.

While it’s certain that automotive firms currently produce traditional cars better than Google or Facebook do, the growth of tech has meant that these firms’ potential market share has expanded rapidly. Now car manufacturers have to be automotive and tech players, and the majority are struggling to find ways to make that happen. You can’t just build a traditional car and then add in connectivity on the assembly line, it requires significant skills and resources. In fact, the market for connectivity components and services will rise to $170bn by 2020 from $30bn today and will therefore require a much larger number of niche and hard to find skills in the relatively near future, which should alarm traditional manufacturers.

The key, as with any time of change, is people. 

Throughout every part of the automotive industry, the key feature to success is its people
(Image via Pixabay)

The cars of today are not just engineering marvels, they’re technological ones too. And unfortunately, the same people that design, plan and ultimately build today’s cars aren’t necessarily the same as those who can develop and embed technology into these vehicles.

But where can firms find these people? How can they attract them and, crucially, retain them?

Trained, knowledgeable specialists are essential for bringing together the automotive and technology industries
(Image via Videoblocks)

The people solution

Part of the issue for automotive producers is that they require people they’ve never had to previously hire - at least not in any real numbers - while the tech firms that are looking to challenge them are vastly experienced in identifying, attracting and recruiting the best and brightest experts in the market. The main focus is likely to be on hiring for positions in fields like IT, programming, data and tech development which necessitates a completely different strategy to that needed to recruit traditional manufacturing professionals. Expecting the 21st century tech expert to accept an offer with a good salary, but with no additional focus on alternative benefits or working environment is naïve at best and is only going to result in a firm struggling to take on the skills it needs to grow.

However, while that may sound concerning – fear not – we feel there are various potential solutions at hand:

Creating a culture that mimics the technology sector will help attract the same sorts of workers and push them to generate new, creative ideas
(Image via Pixabay)

Mimic the tech environment

One of the main factors that helps to attract tech professionals to employers is the type of environment they have created and manufacturers would be well advised to take a leaf from their books and look to build creative, ‘hothouse’ type environments for their tech specialists. This means giving them the reins to dictate their working pace and focusing on outcomes, rather than inputs. Any tech professional worth their salt, who feels they’re being micromanaged and limited is only going to find somewhere else to work where they can express themselves with freedom. 

Think out of the box with benefits

Yes, salary still goes a long way and the aforementioned investment in tech will help massively, but if it comes down to an offer from two relatively similar employers, heads could be turned by the types of smaller benefits you offer. This is another chance for you to take a leaf from the tech employment handbook and consider factors like flexible working, or the chance to work overseas for a short spell as highly valuable tools in the war for talent. 

Developing new technologies requires investment - companies need to be willing to invest in driving their connected future
(Image via Pixabay)

Invest in your tech

Another major factor is the opportunity to work with bleeding edge technology so investing in your technology at all levels is of paramount importance. To put it simply, the professionals you need won’t accept a role if they’re working with the equivalent of Windows 98. Consider the potential value that the technology you’re investing in holds and make sure you’re at the very pinnacle of what’s available on the market. It’s not just going to show return on investment by improving car connectivity, but also as an attraction tool for tech specialists.

Partner with multi-niche firms

As you’ll probably already have found, it’s not exactly easy to drop yourself in the technology market and expect the talent to want to come and work for you. It’s therefore important to partner with firms that have their fingers in lots of different pies and access to a wide variety of talent. This allows you to use their expertise and target professionals in markets you may not even have considered in different sectors. These firms are likely to ‘get’ how these industries work, what motivates the talent and what sort of transferable skills the individuals might possess. Not everyone you need to recruit will be working in the tech market, and you could find recruiting in other sectors like energy and finance equally as effective.

Technology is a global game - widening your field for professionals within the industry can help find new ideas and lower costs
(Image via Pixabay)

Go international

It would be particularly helpful if the multi-niche firm you partner with also possesses an international presence, or at the very least an awareness of the foreign markets. As we all know the UK – and the US to a lesser degree – struggle to fill technology roles due to a shortage of available skills. And while it will vary from firm to firm, recruiting from the likes of the Scandinavian, Eastern European and Indian markets, which are all home to talented tech workforces, could help to find the people you need. It’s also likely to be considerably cheaper to lure a professional away from an employer here than it would be in the UK or US markets. 

Build long term pipelines

We all know that connectivity is the future and unless we experience some sort of mass technological uprising we’re not going to revert back to traditional manufacturing any time soon. The adoption of tech is only going to increase which means that firms don’t just need to think about their employment needs now, but what they’ll require in five, ten or fifteen years in the future. It’s therefore of the utmost importance to build robust but adaptable talent pipelines. It won’t have been easy to recruit tech expertise from a standing start and it’s probably not something you want to do again. By engaging with colleges, universities and technology training providers in your country and overseas, you can promote the opportunities at your firm and engage with professionals in advance of actually needing them. That means that when the time comes and you do need to recruit in numbers, you’re engaging with warm candidates, rather than ones who are stone cold and more interested in the Googles and Facebooks of this world. 

Partnering with a larger technology firm can be an expensive investment, but the long term benefits will result in better connectivity
(Image via Pixabay)

Splash the cash

Of course, if you’ve got a spare $2bn lying around you could copy the example of Audi, BMW and Daimler and buy out a potential tech rival as a consortium of these firms did last year with the acquisition of Nokia’s maps business, HERE. This approach allowed the group to pluck pre-prepared technology expertise, knowledge and collateral and ultimately meant they could hit the ground running. Whether this is a sustainable long term approach is debatable and it will be interesting to see if these firms approach future challenges from the tech arena in the same way. 

The future of the automotive industry is in the technology being developed right now. Having the right people can help drive brands to success
(Image via Pixabay)

It’s going to be an interesting few years for the automotive market and the firms operating within it. On one hand the growth of technology presents them with myriad opportunities to grow and enter new markets, but they also face significant challenges from new contenders to the throne emerging from the technology industry. As with anything, the secret is people and hiring the right ones. The firms that can meet the technological demands of the future market and bring on talent that can allow to them to grow will ultimately be successful. Those that don’t think out of the box and begin to plan for the future are likely to be swallowed up by Tesla, Android or Google in the race for the automotive throne and the war for talent. 

Fircroft are helping major brands recruit technical specialists for the most innovative projects

With almost fifty years of experience in engineering recruitment, Fircroft has been proven to offer a “first in class” dedication to market-leading innovations within the automotive industry. Our collaborative approach to staffing services and workforce management drives a consistently reliable, compliant and cost effective solutions.

Visit our services page for more information on everything we offer from recruitment to global mobility and beyond. Or, if you’re an engineer seeking a new role, register for free to receive regular updates on the latest opportunities tailored to your skills.

Recent Comments
I have 2 year old car Subaru and the lack of real driver tech amazes me like the car can remember where to put my seat but cant remember my driving set up! like I have the cruise control on setting 2, AC on 22C, the display on the dashboard, engine auto cut out -OFF, the only thing it remember is the radio on 92FM, Not happy with that level of tech a 1990's EXL spread sheet remembers more.
Murray Ridsdale , 06 March 2019
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Connected cars and what they mean for automotive recruitment - Time to read 11 min
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