PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recently published its 12th Annual
Global CEO Survey. In a special summary on the automotive sector, PwC
reports some interesting items. Some the key data points follow.
37% of surveyed CEOs feel they need to focus on greater penetration
of their existing markets, while 24% felt that new product development
was the key to future success. This is a reversal of priorities from a
year ago. A whopping 92% of the responding CEOs acknowledge that
innovation is key to their long term success, but most feel the current
priority is on short term survival. This latter point is not too
surprising in a climate when auto makers in many countries are getting
government assistance to stay afloat.
The report cites a few specific examples of innovation coming from
auto manufacturers, but these are not necessarily surprising new lines
of thinking. All the cited examples are in the area of alternative
fuel technologies. While these are welcome advances, they can hardly
be called highly original at this point in time. But then originality
doesn’t look like it is in the cards for the automakers.
While 95% of the CEOs mentioned that information about the customer
was important, the report talks about understanding customer
preferences. Now in all fairness, this could be a defect in how the
questions were posed by PwC. But if we assume that this is in fact
what the automakers are actually interested in (and historical behavior
would support this assumption), then the automotive CEOs are content to
drive their businesses by looking in the rear view mirror. They should
be interested in looking beyond mere preferences to understand what the
unexpressed desires and aspirations of their customers are relative
this product which has secured such an important role in their lives.