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Auto experts predict fewer drivers in the future

  • 19th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley's Van Andel Global Trade Center.
  • Dan Gifford, leader of strategy and automotive consulting for Plante Moran.
  • Ed Wulbrecht, senior vice president of manufacturing for Subaru of Indiana Automotive.
  • 19th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley's Van Andel Global Trade Center.
  • 19th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley's Van Andel Global Trade Center.
  • 19th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley's Van Andel Global Trade Center.
  • 19th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley's Van Andel Global Trade Center.

Posted on March 12, 2018

Imagine not wanting or needing to actually drive anywhere — instead an autonomous vehicle can be scheduled to take you wherever you want to go.

The use of autonomous vehicles was one topic discussed at the 19th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley's Van Andel Global Trade Center. The event took place March 8 at the Pew Grand Rapids Campus with the theme, "Smart Moves: Tech, Tools, Talent." 

Daron Gifford, leader of strategy and automotive consulting for Plante Moran, said in tomorrow's transportation, many will choose not to own a vehicle or a garage.

"I could have a vehicle pick me up for a short trip or a five-hour trip," said Gifford. "And, when it drops me off, it will go pick up somebody else and drive them somewhere. I got there safely and efficiently and I'm satisfied."

Gifford said during the next three years there will be increased testing of autonomous vehicles, and by 2025, there will be designated lanes for them on roadways.

Another topic discussed at the symposium was the need to find and develop talent. Among the 17 largest states with above average concentrations of production jobs, Michigan ranks the highest for evidence of a skills gap.

Ed Wulbrecht, senior vice president of manufacturing for Subaru of Indiana Automotive, said his company has created a pipeline by recruiting high school seniors for a two-year program that combines school work and on-the-job training. 

"We recruit local seniors who are not pursuing a conventional four-year degree," said Wulbrecht. "Students who complete the program earn an associate's degree, receive a job offer from us and graduate debt-free."

Wulbrecht said the company also has a two-year, internal program for Subaru production workers who have demonstrated maintenance aptitude; tuition for this program is covered by a state grant.

Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis for IHS Markit, revealed his industry forecast at the symposium, saying continued economic global growth and tax reform are helping the auto industry. 

"The global economy is expected to edge up to 3.4 percent in 2018, the fastest pace since 2010," said Wall. "The auto industry will benefit from the improving tax and regulatory climate and strengthening business investment."

Wall said the health of the market for light vehicle sales will benefit from consumer confidence, credit availability and job growth, but could be negatively affected by an increase in interest rates, the risk of policy mistakes and a high number of lease returns.

For more information about Van Andel Global Trade Center events and services, visit www.vagtc.org or call (616) 331-6811.