As part of our work with the Future of Cars special edition of Coffee Break with Game-Changers, I sat down with host Bonnie D. Graham and gave my point of view on who were the disruptors and who were being disrupted at the recent Best Practices for Automotive (#BP4Auto) event September 18-20 in Detroit. Listen to the full cast below, with transcript follows. For more event reviews, listen to my series re-cap for 2017 live, Tuesday October 10, 2017 at 10AM ET / 7AM PT or on demand here.
Bonnie: Welcome to SAP’s 3rd Annual Best Practices for Automotive Conference. We are bringing together hundreds of professionals in the automotive industry. They’re senior leaders, they’re decision-makers, analysts, super-users, support teams, solution providers, business process owners, we may even have some press and some students and educators there. Why? SAP is sponsoring and hosting a one-of-a-kind experiential event built around three wonderful factors: learning, innovation, and peer collaboration. Does it get any better than this?
Hello, I’m Bonnie D. Graham, the producer and host of The Future of Cars with Game-Changers radio, presented by SAP. And on the other side of the microphone is, I can say, my good friend, and he has been many times on our radio series. He is now taking over as the owner of the Editorial Calendar for the Future of Cars—It’s William, I’m allowed to call him Bill, Bill Newman, Strategic Industry Advisor, North American Automotive at SAP.
Hi Bill, how are you today?
Bill: I’m good, Bonnie. How are you doing this afternoon?
Bonnie: I am well. I wish I was there with you in Detroit. I heard from David Parrish and Pradeep Amladi and everybody says it’s a great conference. I hear there’s some amazing cars here on the show floor. You want to tell me just for a second what you’ve seen before I get you my questions?
Bill: Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s a great event. We’ve got close to 400 people and we’re all here in Detroit, the hub of the car industry here in North America. We’ve got, I think, over 20 countries represented.
We’ve got a packed house full of great partners and vendors that are with us today, and we had a nice opening earlier today who is Stefan Krauss, who is our Global Head of our Automotive Industry here in Detroit. It’s just been really great to come together.
We were actually walking through the lunch line and I bumped into an old colleague from Volkswagen and we were joking about how this is a bit of a homecoming. Everyone kind of moves around in automotive and really, nobody leaves. It’s a nice intimate environment given so many people so I think everybody’s really got a nice vibe going on today.
Bonnie: That’s a really nice perspective, Bill. Thank you—I wasn’t planning to ask you that but I know that you’re a good on-your-feet talker, if you will. So I really appreciate that. I love the idea that it’s a homecoming of sorts and at the very end of the interview, in a few minutes, I’m going to ask you a question about why people who are listening to us but not there this year should be there next year. So maybe we can drop that word on them once again.
Bill Newman, our listeners are from all overall the world. You know, you’ve been on Game-Changers with me many times. We have a global audience and they’re wondering, what does SAP see as the top trends and/or the top challenges facing the automotive industry today? What’s your POV? What do you see, Bill?
Bill: I think in terms of a digital disruption, everybody’s trying to do it. There’s not an emerging standard or business model that all of the, let’s say, automakers and of course, their suppliers are moving, too. So they’re trying to understand, first of all, what is it that they’re trying to move to? We looked at autonomous shared electrified vehicles. What does that mean for a particular company and everybody’s trying to figure that out. And then as an aggregate, how is the industry going to move there?
You and I spoke very recently on our Future of Cars with Game-Changers show and we were talking about some of the new federal regulations that are going to allow a certain number, I think a couple thousand a hundred thousand vehicles, level three, level four autonomous vehicles over the next five years operate on the road.
Everybody’s trying to figure out, how do we digitize, so that’s operationally, and then how do we monetize? So if you look at some of the work that McKinsey and Roland-Burger and IHS, some of the other auto think tanks that have thought about—they’ve actually suggested that the big upside isn’t the car that you buy and we park it at our garage and it sits there for 70-80% of the time or more when we’re not using it but it’s really the digital services and the consumerization of the automotive is really another device.
Everybody’s trying to figure out where they play in that space and that, according to McKenzie, is going to be a $1.5 trillion dollar marketplace by 2030. So that’s huge. And you’re seeing some of the companies begin to make moves to put their bets on that. Maybe it’s the case of GM pulling out of Europe and selling their operations to Peugeot, PSA, and you’ve got winding down some operations that weren’t really performing particularly well in India and making their bets on high growth, BRAC markets, or the new digital space.
That’s just one example, but again, everybody’s trying to figure out what that means for them and arguably, if I can return to the GM example, that was a big thing. They have been working to become profitable in Europe for decades and finally, arguably achieved that to a point where they decided that they felt comfortable then, carving that out and putting those assets on other bets.
So, you don’t need to be the largest revenue car-producing company, but we want to get a share of the higher margin automotive services, vehicle space, next generation vehicle. Obviously, that’s a big bet that takes a lot of capital investment, so each automaker is sorting that out right now. That’s a really big deal in the industry.
Bonnie: Thank you, Bill. You answered my next question in advance. Let me just read the question. You covered it, but I have a part two to the question. I was going to ask you which of the top trends you’re seeing will spawn or spark, I should say, the most significant new business models in automotive? I think you just talked about that, so let me move to part two, which is, where is SAP in being able to be positioned to help companies realize the value, the benefit, the profitability of those models?
Bill: Well, I’ll go back to part one and tell you where the biggest barrier is right now, which is a question you weren’t going to ask me, so let’s go there. That’s talent management.
Bill: Absolutely. We’ve got all of these—you keep hearing about it—if you’ve got kids or friends with kids in school and they’re talking about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), they’re just not enough of those graduates to go around.
Now, SAP, in conjunction with many of their user groups, both in North America and throughout the world, have excellent qualification and certification programs ready. Graduates coming out of university and four-year colleges [are ready] to take on those positions, but they’re very competitive and other industries outside of automotive are vying for the same talent pool and resource.
Even in engineering and manufacturing practices, we see the lack of talent in those practices actually equating to—and this is the Center of Automotive Research – so this isn’t just something we’re pulling out [of the air] – a 6% capacity gap. Meaning that the whole industry could be operating at a 6% higher volume level rate right now if we had the talent available to do all of the things that we wanted to do, to make cars and to move to digital. So, that’s a pretty big gap. So what’s SAP doing? Certainly, we’ve got a number of functional expertise areas across.
So for example, to address talent management, to address procurement for digital leaders in finance and manufacturing, I think the exciting thing in automotive and in particular, is that we’re addressing three very specific needs in automotive.
The big data, with our large HANA platform and memory platform that’s been in production. We’ve got thousands of consumers, whether it’s analytics or running ERP or moving to a new S/4 platform that are being able to take advantage of that.
I think the second is business networks, so being able to monetize the purchasing power through our Ariba products, to look at time and expenses through Concur that tie back into finance. We’ve got these broad multi-million individual and company networks.
The third area, which I think is the most exciting, is SAP vehicle networks where we are creating apps that actually go into the on-board services of vehicles that our customers are making. And in this way, we truly are an automotive supplier now.
We are putting content and applications, whether it’s figuring out where you’re going to park next to where you can route and then bill your expense report or whether we can do some promotions or some consumer driven services, where you might go out to dinner.
All of those things are being developed now with our great customers and partners and they’re being targeted for use in both the commercial and light passenger vehicle market space. Truly, we can stand up and we can make our claim that SAP is truly an automotive supplier in that sense. I think that’s really exciting.
Bonnie: It’s very exciting. I wasn’t aware of that level of positioning, Bill. I’m still reeling over your comment that there’s a talent challenge, getting kids through the STEM programs and into the automotive industry to bring brilliance, not only in technical skills but probably in the way they think and the visionary qualities of how they approach—
Bonnie: Yeah, that’s where you cannot have a shortage, especially right now. You know what? This leads me—I think it’s a nice segue, Bill Newman, to my next question. Stefan Krauss, the opening keynote speaker at the conference today, asked the question of the audience, “Are you the disruptor or the disrupted?”
This goes back, I think, to your comment about the talent pool. How do you disrupt if you don’t have a talent pool that is helping you become the disruptor? Meaning you’re not the victim, but you’re on the leading edge. So let me ask you a question, Bill—what do you see at the event in terms of companies—on what end of the spectrum?
They might start out as disrupted and then move toward being the new disruptor and we know we’ve talked on Game-Changers radio that I’ve said, the industry is just layer upon layer of surprising disruptions. It just isn’t settling down anytime soon. Who’s attending? Are they disruptors? Disrupted? Or someone on that continuum?
Bill: Yeah, we’ve been able to see a few of the early breakouts and they’re just excellent, talking about everybody’s journey, whether it’s in people or talent or manufacturing or supply chain, it’s just really exciting. That’s what I like most about this program, in conjunction with our [friends at] Eventful Conferences and ASUG, which is our North American SAP user group. It’s really for SAP customers by SAP customers.
So you’re going to get a little of our teams and our positioning but really, it’s our stories that are coming from the field from colleagues—your own industry colleagues if you’re one of our customers, which I think is great. So I think we’re at a crossroads.
I think there are a lot of people here trying to understand and learn, which is wonderful, about what people are doing. And then you’ve got some digital leaders like Karma Automotive and others who have gone pretty deep into their digital journey with us at SAP. Arguably, Karma—I used to work at Volkswagen when we owned Bentley and Rolls Royce. We used to joke it was a vitamin business. You only had to sell one or two cars a day and everything was fine.
Arguably, Karma – the former Fisker Automotive – is a bit of that same uber-lux market. And they’ve literally invested talent—here we go, talent again—as well as capital assets into creating an uber-lux, not only buying experience for their customers, more of a concierge and thematic experience.
For example, if you feel like you’re fall and you want to go hiking, Karma will be happy to orient the interior the car to that theme, if you will. So it’s really the uber-lux experience. But also to the operations of the manufacturing of their new plant in Southern California. That’s very exciting and of course, it’s still a driver-powered vehicle, but digitized and electrified type of product. That’s really exciting to see.
And we do have some industry crossover, so Lockheed Martin spoke earlier this morning, giving a little bit of a story about what they see both from an aerospace as well as a contract vehicle manufacturing journey that they go through. Both very large and very small companies, and again, partners – we have such a fantastic partner ecosystem – that are able to come in and play those specific roles to help our customers. It’s just really good to see. We’re going to see more over the next two days that we’re together.
Bonnie: Very exciting. You mentioned the word ‘electrified’. I was going to say what you’re telling me, Bill Newman, is electrifying. It’s very exciting. You mean seriously, uber-lux? You’re talking about customizing the interior of a vehicle for the experience you’re about to be taken to? What are you, talking about a wallpaper color or like the color of the floors? So what are you talking about?
Bill: Yeah. So, trims, maybe it’s the type of wood or the color scheme or the feel. Are you a rugged type of person or are you more of a plush person? That’s really the high-end experience. When you’re paying the low to mid six figures for a vehicle, you can begin to enjoy—
Bonnie: Anything you want.
Bill: Pretty much, right? And that’s the whole idea. It’s really a concierge experience and it’s all powered by SAP and our hybrid product suite as well as our S/4 enterprise and our operating environment for ERP. So it’s just really, really fantastic.
Bonnie: Well, that is really exciting. I was going to ask you a question we do at the end of all of our Game-Changers show. Look into the crystal ball and tell me what you predict will be the most dramatic game-changer for automotive between 2020 and 2025, but in my opinion, I think you just told me already. But do you have a different game-changer you want to predict, Bill?
Bill: Well, I think overall, everything is going to change. I think it was Mary Barra, CEO of GM, that said, we’re going to see more change in the next five to ten years in the auto industry than we have seen in the last 50. I think we’ve used this quote on your show before, but that was two years ago. It’s hard to really understand what the car as a vehicle will look like and express.
For those of you listeners who want to learn more, we’ve talked about trucks. We’ve talked about passenger cars. We’ve talked about taxis even most recently, and those shows are all on-demand. But I think it’s really going to be a question of how does the value chain look? So you could argue that the automakers currently, today, could end up being the fleet owners.
We all subscribe and you get a truck on the weekend and a nice passenger vehicle during the week and it rolls up to you and you drop it off or whatever. You buy subscriptions based on your miles and your vehicles come and go as you need them. Well, maybe the automakers don’t want to run that business. Maybe there will be emerging fleet companies.
Maybe the next generation, maybe the Uberized version of the car rental industry as we know it today, maybe they’re going to own the fleet. They’ll manage the maintenance. When you operate a vehicle at 80-90% or higher, there’s a whole different vehicle maintenance model that you have to think about. That’s a cost.
As we figure out how we monetize the vehicle today and into the vehicle tomorrow and we get to that tipping point where you’ve got more autonomous vehicles on the road than you do classic, traditional vehicles, that really becomes an interesting time. That’s the time where we get close to that. That’s when I think people are going to have to commit to certain business models and really take the plunge one way or the other.
So, I think that’s going to be—there are so many things changing that I think fundamentally, who owns the fleet is really going to be the big change that we’ll see over the next ten to twenty years.
Bonnie: Absolutely fascinating. Now I have one last question for you, Mr. Newman. I want you to just give me a one sentence answer because I know you want to get back to the event.
The event takeaway—there are people who are not among the 400 or so people who are there with you and Pradeep and David and Stefan right now. Why should our listeners who did not attend this year—why should they plan to attend next year? What’s the top reason to be there at Best Practices in Automotive in 2018? Bill Newman, one sentence.
Bill: I think it’s a homecoming and you learn so much from your peers. We mentioned it earlier—you just get to be with so many great people, people that we know, people that we work with, and you learn so much from those people and it’s not a pressure situation.
Everybody’s here to learn and engage and to have a good time. And take at least one thing away that they can put to work either in their plan or immediately into their business when they get back to the office. It’s a homecoming for those that want to learn and have fun.
I personally invite everybody to attend in 2018 back in Detroit and hope to see all of your listeners then.
Bonnie: Thank you. Bill Newman, it’s always such a pleasure and I must say, I learned so much from you during our brief time together today. This interview will be posted on our Future of Cars with Game-Changers radio landing page very soon.
I’m going to wish you a great rest of the event, Bill Newman. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say on our upcoming Future of Cars with Game-Changers radio shows. Have a great time and thanks for taking time out of a very busy schedule to meet with me, Bill. All the best.
And to our listeners, I’ll be back with more very soon. Bonnie D. Graham, signing off. Have a great day.