Auto Manufacturers, Suppliers Not Getting Return On Vehicle Improvements – Brief Article

Auto Manufacturers, Suppliers Not Getting Return On Vehicle Improvements – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included

The significant increase in car features and safety made by auto producers and their suppliers, have not registered on the industry’s bottom line, according to new research conducted by Accenture, in collaboration with the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

According to the research, “Estimating the New Automotive Value Chain,” automakers and suppliers failed to capitalize on value created during one of the largest periods of economic expansion: They added $5,300 of features and options – anti-lock brake systems, larger engines, etc. – per car, yet were able to raise prices by only $4,200, the research concluded.

As a result, while the consumer received some $1,100 of value for free, automaker earnings, stock prices and return on capital have suffered. One of most dismal indicators of the industry’s problem is return on assets (ROA), according to the study. Automakers’ ROA remained flat at about three percent during an economic boom, and suppliers’ ROA declined from 8.5 percent between 1995 and 1997 to just 5.7 percent between 1998 and 2000, according to the study.

In fact, the value created per vehicle grew for the automakers from 28 percent to 33 percent from 1990 to 2000, while value migrated away from suppliers, the report said. “In reality, automakers captured five percent of value at the expense of their suppliers,” said Randy Barba, partner in the Accenture Automotive industry group. “This should have boosted their profitability by a similar margin, but it didn’t. Consequently, despite capturing increased share of value, automaker inefficiencies and the migration of value to consumers prevented improvements.”

The research identified two reasons for this state of affairs: the failure of automakers to address the inefficiencies of their business model and the inability of the industry to recognize and address the structural changes that have destabilized the industry since the late 1980s. “To say that the entire auto industry is operating under a broken business model is a gross understatement,” said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research.

“With manufacturers plagued by operational and financial woes, suppliers asked to do more for less and cash reserves dwindling rapidly, the industry is in a state of significant instability, with many companies near the breaking point,” Cole added.

Automakers’ inefficiencies are most visible in the areas of product development, sales and marketing and capital expenditures, the research found. Automakers saw their marketing and sales costs balloon $650 per vehicle over the last decade, while their capital expenditures and product development costs increased $150 and $250 respectively per vehicle over the same period.

“The good news is that manufacturers and suppliers have the ability to cure what ails them,” added Barba. “The process will be far from simple or quick, but they can succeed with focused, well-executed strategies.” Suppliers, he continued, could achieve 25-plus percent market share by determining methodically where and how they will compete. To this end, they should analyze each business line for its growth potential, determine whether it fits with their core technology capability and understand its return on assets and competitive intensity, he added.

The research indicates that suppliers should focus on: *Dominating a selective component or system through aggressive outsourcing of all non-core activities and asset

swaps, rather than expensive mergers and acquisitions. *Investing wisely to capitalize on core technological capabilities and avoid duplication of resources and work. *Innovating to earn superior short-term returns and develop truly differentiated features and performance for

long-lasting competitive advantage. *Analyzing the probability of paybacks on investments – i.e., determine the probability of sales to automakers vs the

danger of being usurped by them.

Similarly, the study recommends that automakers should focus on: *Limiting “shadow engineering” and allow suppliers to earn returns that let them invest in innovation and product

development. *Building the core business, since integrating downstream is difficult. Although such integration is potentially

lucrative, the capital markets frown on unrelated diversification. *Retiring excess capacity and invest in changes that allow existing facilities to manufacture multiple platforms. *Using resources freed up from reduced “shadow engineering” to reallocate product development and marketing

expenses to activities that earn higher returns.

“Although industry financial performance has been sub-par during an expansion phase in the automotive cycle, the prognosis is not without hope,” said Cole. “But success demands that the industry reinvent its practices and make difficult decisions.”

“If automakers and suppliers devote their energies to making needed changes, the industry will look noticeably different in the next 10 years,” predicted Barba. There will be fewer suppliers in the future, and those that remain will be bigger and have deeper capabilities than even the best companies today, he said. Because of the value that they contribute, they will also have more leverage and better, more collaborative working relationships with automakers.

By 2010, some automakers will no longer exist, and some will be smaller, producing fewer brands to maximize returns on product development, the research predicted. Their primary areas of expertise will most likely be design, assembly and marketing. They will focus on improving overall operating models, particularly in supply chain management, working with major systems suppliers to allow both better margins and real innovation, according to the study.

The research indicated that automakers will carry little excess capacity, and what they have will be more flexible and modular.

Methodology Estimating the New Automotive Value Chain is a six-month study conducted by Accenture, in collaboration with CAR. The study quantified industry performance and assessed the degree of instability and its genesis. It is based upon an analysis of public, industry and government data, as well as nine in-depth interviews with automaker and supplier executives in the finance and strategy areas.

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