The North American International Auto Show is in full swing this week in Detroit, with 40 new model introductions amid a frenzy of discussions about Mobility. Events kicked off last week with the Annual Meeting of MICHauto, an organization created by the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce to promote, retain and grow the automotive industry in Michigan.
MICHauto organizes its activities around 5 pillars: Advocacy, Awareness, Business Attraction, Talent Attraction and Mobility. Reports were made on all fronts at the annual meeting. For Advocacy, MICHauto connects and engages key policymakers in Michigan with industry stakeholders. For Awareness, MICHauto has teamed with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and others to promote the “Brainpower” campaign and other industry marketing initiatives. Business Attraction is in full swing this week at the Auto Show and throughout the year, with global companies converging on Detroit as an R&D/sales hub in North America. On the Talent Attraction front, MICHauto has begun a “Discover Auto” engineering career series with leading universities in Michigan, and also promotes efforts aimed at high school age and younger future engineers. But this week, the real star has been Mobility.
Steve Miller, legendary automotive industry executive who now serves as President and CEO of International Automotive Components, challenged the MICHauto meeting attendees: In order for Michigan maintain its position as a global automotive capital, it must maintain its leadership position in research and development, including in the Mobility field. “Our dominance is threatened by shifting trends,” warned Miller. “The U.S. is no longer the world’s biggest market. [Michigan] will need to continue to be the brains behind the unfolding technology story if we are to retain our relevance in the century to come.” Among the challenges to the U.S. cited by Miller included the talent shortages, spiraling healthcare costs, and a growing anti-business political and regulatory environment. All of these have to be addresses for the U.S. and Michigan to succeed. Miller mixed his admonitions with enthusiasm about the industry and the exciting pace of change, noting that he would love to be 25 again and starting off in one of the world’s most dynamic industries.
Miller went on to praise the Michigan Mobility Initiative, a lynchpin of the state’s Mobility strategy organized by Business Leaders for Michigan, MICHauto, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the MEDC and the University Research Corridor, working closely with industry players. We have shared before in this blog some key projects coming out of these players’ efforts, including the NHTSA testing that has been going on for some time, the M-City development in Ann Arbor, the Smart Corridors V2I testing that is embedded in S.E. Michigan’s major freeways, and others.
At the Auto Show this week, Ford, GM, Mercedes and many other industry players are leading with their new products and Mobility initiatives in tandem. The recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has become a dominant venue for these companies to share the Mobility story, and will continue to grow in importance as Mobility dominates the automotive industry dialog. The million dollar question will be if the legal and regulatory landscape will be able to keep up with the pace of technology enhancement. Stay tuned.