Global Automotive Players Unclear of the Future

Michelle Remo, “Big 4″ observer
January 06, 2012 /

With China slated to be the world’s biggest market for auto sales and exports by 2025, and demand for electric vehicles expected to be the highest in emerging markets, global auto players should have a clearer vision of the way forward on issues critical to the industry. But it appears they don’t just yet, according to KPMG International’s 13th annual Global Automotive Executive Survey.

While the industry continues to weigh the relative advantages of various electrified fuel technologies, it is clear that ownership of the e-components space (battery management and chemistry, power electronics, e-motors, battery cells and packs, etc.) will draw intense competition among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said that electric component suppliers will gain a bigger role by 2025 and 40 percent of respondents predict that OEMs will lead in that area in addition to traditional power train technologies.

Despite the fact that 76 percent globally said that fuel efficiency is still the most important factor affecting consumer-buying decisions, followed this year by environmental friendliness (65 percent), two-thirds don’t expect electric vehicles to exceed 15 percent of annual global sales within the next 15 years.

But that does not seem to be the case in China, Japan as well as other high-growth markets where electromobility is expected to take hold sooner, according to the survey findings.

Respondents in Asia, China and Japan in particular, predict a higher penetration of fully electric vehicles than the global average by 2025; well over 50 percent of respondents from China expect that upwards of 11 to 25 percent (or 4 to 9 million vehicles) will be new car registrations for e-cars, while 46 percent of respondents from Japan predict that e-car registrations will exceed 25 percent. That is in contrast to the US, where nearly 50 percent believe new e-car registrations will account for only 6 to 10 percent by 2025.

Chief among the issues manufacturers and suppliers seem uncertain about is which fuel technology will emerge as the optimal and predominant method to power the electric car by 2025.

Globally, hybrid vehicles are expected to lead the market and attract the most investment in the interim with full hybrids and plug-in versions expected to be the favored technologies, and fuel-cell vehicles coming in third. This year’s survey found that respondents see an improvement in battery and fuel cell technologies, and there are signs that fuel cells may be viewed as the preferred option; nevertheless, uncertainty still lingers.

This scenario is expected to play out differently in China and Japan where 33 percent and 46 percent of respondents, respectively, said that battery-electrified vehicles will be the most popular followed by fuel-cell vehicles.

Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of respondents globally said that optimization of the internal combustion engine (ICE) currently offers greater efficiency and the most potential for carbon emission reduction than the current electromobility technologies over the next 5 years.

Those findings are compelling when viewed alongside the survey results showing that Asian and European OEMs are most likely to gain hugely in market share over the next 5 years, with seven out of the 10 fastest growing auto manufacturers expected to be from Asia. Moreover, a majority of respondents believe that China will lead in both sales and exports of vehicles by 2017 followed by the US, and Brazil in a close tie for third with India.

As with KPMG’s 2010 global auto survey, this year’s survey shows that overcapacity and excess production remain critical issues, with over half of respondents expecting China to be the most overbuilt by 2016.

Yet, the survey’s findings reveal that still no real solutions have been identified and nearly one fifth of respondents do not see overcapacity as a serious threat in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets despite available industry data that indicates that unutilized capacity is a real threat in the region and is rapidly increasing.

Other issues that players vying to control the value chain should be tuning into in addition to fuel technology, the report said, are urbanized mobility services1, ‘connected-car’ solutions and seeking new alliances and partnerships to tap into innovation and unique competencies.

Urban mobility is a rapidly emerging issue especially in the US and Japan where over 60 percent of respondents believe urban planning will influence vehicle design and usage. In Germany, surprisingly, only 38 percent hold that view.

The study shows that the potential urban customer base for both BRIC and triad markets will range between 6 and 15 percent–or approximately 110 to 230 million customers–in the next 15 years.

Brazil is expected be a leading market for mobility services with 42 percent of respondents predicting more than 25 percent of the country’s urban inhabitants will use those services by 2026; overall, China has the greatest potential to lead the market for mobility services with an expected 90 million potential customers.

As younger urban drivers grow more interested in car sharing than in full ownership, OEMs have an opportunity to dominate the space but respondents from around the world had mixed views about who would control this growing new mobility services market. Nearly 30 percent believe that joint alliances between OEMs and new mobility start-ups will be the successful way to go.

Full, integrated vehicle connectivity is long overdue said over 60 percent of survey respondents. While traditionally controlled by OEMs, the very lucrative market for in-car connectivity seems to be open for the taking. Just 30 percent of respondents see OEMs controlling the revenue stream in 2025 followed by IT and communications companies.


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