Shift to electric vehicles, auto industry resilience are key messages at VAGTC auto suppliers symposium

Mike Wall, executive director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit.
Mike Wall, executive director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit.
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

The auto industry has proved to be very resilient as it continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic, said Mike Wall, executive director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit.

Wall was a keynote speaker at the 22nd Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, sponsored by the Van Andel Global Trade in the Seidman College of Business.

He discussed the effects of COVID-19 and the latest auto trends during the March 11 virtual event, which was attended by more than 150 business owners and executives from all tiers of the automotive industry.

Wall, ’94, said 2020 was a tough year for the auto industry, which is still experiencing supply chain challenges and some shortages of components. But, he said demand has held up, particularly for retail.

“Consumers are out buying vehicles,” said Wall. “Demand is back and we almost can’t build them fast enough.”

Wall said in the next 24-36 months, there will be an increased shift toward electrified vehicles.

“This will bring new challenges and opportunities for suppliers,” he said. “Planning production volumes will be critical. It’s all about strategy. How do you take advantage of the opportunities on the EV front while also retaining those opportunities in that profit-generation of your existing book of business?”

Michael Smuts, vice president of finance for Lucid Motors.
Michael Smuts, vice president of finance for Lucid Motors.
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

Michael Smuts, vice president of finance for Lucid Motors and another keynote speaker at the symposium, introduced Lucid Air, an electric vehicle designed to be “California cool.”

“‘Post-luxury' consumers are seeking brands that align with their values — brands that are more informed and inspired,” said Smuts. “This includes refinement, sustainability and physical and emotional engagement.”

Lucid Motors has partnered with Electrify America, which currently has 550 charging stations across the country with more than 2,400 chargers. 

Sabreen Akarah-Mere, manager of early career programs at Rivian.
Sabreen Akarah-Mere, manager of early career programs at Rivian.
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

Sabreen Akarah-Mere, manager of early career programs at Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer, said the auto industry needs to revamp the way it attracts new talent, especially Gen Z.

“The next generation of talent is looking for an employer with a clear social responsibility, opportunities for career growth and a company that supports diversity and inclusion,” Akarah-Mere said.

Sonja Johnson, executive director of the Van Andel Global Trade Center.
Sonja Johnson, executive director of the Van Andel Global Trade Center.
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

Plante Moran was the title sponsor of the event. Other sponsors were: ArtiFlex, Automated Logistics, Chase Bank, Encore Business Group, IHS Markit, MICHAuto, Morrison Industrial Equipment, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, The Right Place, and Warner Norcross + Judd.