Push or Pull?

The world has become much more transparent during the recent decade. In the old days, you could turn a ‘de­cent’ product into a commercial success through clever market­ing. Nowadays it’s impossible to claim product benefits that are not totally true, or even not en­tirely true. And it’s hardly any use to boast superiority, when there is a doubtful relation to what you can actually deliver — it’s called vapour ware. Customers are not impressed by advertised claims, because all too often they have been disappointed by the actual capabilities of touted products and services. Hence, the effectiveness of traditional push strategies is diminishing rapidly.

Previously, one-way media were dominant; predominantly adds, brochures and catalogs. Now it’s all about two-way media; the internet, social media, bots. And limiting yourself to just transmitting mes­sages doesn’t really take advantage of the media that customers use actively. Two-way media implies engaging in a dialogue.

Technology empowers customers to research, investigate, verify, and compare offerings and hence to make better decisions. Consequently, customers go through a significant part of the buying cycle before they contact potential sellers and service providers.

Although we are all aware of the efficiency and effectiveness of surveying and pre-selecting relevant suppliers, we tend to fall back on conventional selling strategies in our approach to generating new business. That is, we predominantly use push strat­egies — because “customer engagement activities”, like number of prospects generated, number of leads contacted, and number of calls/meetings is what sales staff is measured on. However, the difference between push and pull ist significant and decisive, and it shows in the way how consumers are perceived and approached.

Push

Push perceives potential customers as passive but responsive agents who will look, listen and react to messages that are directed at them. The message is being force-feed to them. Push is to subject prospects to your prod­ucts and services via what­ever means available. Push can be stereotyped as using advertising to bombard customers with an endless stream of claims messages, until they buy the prod­uct. Whereupon the customer will receive additional cross-sell offerings in a similar manner. In online media the old meth­ods are dominant as well, e.g. traditional advertising op­tions, such as popups, and intrusive commercials being displayed before you can view a YouTube clip or read a blog post.

Many companies use ‘Customer Relationship Management’ (CRM) systems as a means of nudging or pushing customers in an unsolicited fashion. Messages are tailored to individual profiles as much as pos­sible, but they are still unsolicited. As long as the marginal revenues are suffi­cient, the company is satisfied with low response rates, high waste, and a small number of customers that opt out upon each blast. Such activities are not useful for engaging in a dialog and devel­oping a relationship. Push is by definition intru­sive. Because the target audience is confronted with unsolicited commercial expressions, they tend to be much less receptive and mostly un-engaged.

Pull

Pull is in every aspect the op­posite of push. Pull is all about “the customer being in control”. Pull regards customers as active agents who will actively communicate their needs. Today’s customers are avid researchers. They traverse the internet for information, look at reviews, and seek insights from peers and references. In pull markets, buyers collabo­rate on competitor research.
The customer is not looking for specific product benefits. He has a need or a pain-point, for which he is searching a solution. Therefore, simply transmitting prod­uct features and benefits as perceived by the seller may not be very useful to the buyer. What is useful is listening to needs, and talking about ways to fulfill these needs. The real and specific needs of customers shape the dynamics of the market. Not the seller, but the customer decides when and how he or she would like to be served.

Pull regards customer engage­ment as customer-driven and includes letting customers de­cide if and when they want to talk to you. Making it easy for customers to find you, to contact you, and to reach you for answers – and listening and being responsive – is key to your success. Pull strategies implicitly result in a higher level of engagement, because the cus­tomers are seeking out the com­panies they would like to work with themselves. As a result, the probability of offline and on­line word-of-mouth referrals is much higher — because cus­tomers will tell others when they are happy.

Tesla Model 3 Review

Tesla Model 3

I first wrote about electromobility in March 2015 as part of a review of the BMW i3.

In June 2015 I drove the Tesla Model S in a long-distance test from Munich to Copenhagen, once across Denmark and back for almost 3.800 kilometers, and in June 2017 I did a long-distance road test with the Tesla Model X to see how the Model X proves itself as a “Grand Tourismo”. Despite the fact that the Tesla Superchargers at that time were considerably sparser than today, the long-distance capability of the two top models was convincing even then.

The time is ripe for electromobility

The idea of a purely battery electric powered car is old, as Ferdinand Porsche already presented the Lohner Porsche with a purely electric drive at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. However, the availability and storage possibilities of sufficient electrical energy were simply not available at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead, it became the century of oil production and combustion, and the inventions of the gasoline and diesel engines fundamentally changed the direction of development of drive technology for passenger cars.

A good 100 years later, things look quite different: Electricity is always and everywhere available, can be stored in high density and converted highly efficiently into kinetic energy in modern electric motors. In addition, more and more electricity is being generated from renewable sources such as sun, wind and water, and there are practically no limits to the future availability of environmentally friendly electricity.

The driver and the followers

The pioneer of the new electromobility is Tesla Motors, which was founded in 2003 in Silicon Valley by an electrical engineer and a computer scientist. Shortly afterwards, based on a prototype and the visionary drive of the Canadian-US American entrepreneur Elon Musk, it was built up to what it is today: the world’s leading manufacturer of electric cars. Initially hardly noticed or taken seriously, Tesla caught conventional car manufacturers cold in the very CO2 crisis and the diesel problem and pushed the paradigm shift to electromobility.

In the meantime, almost all manufacturers are following suit and intensifying the race to catch up with Tesla’s clear lead of currently certainly two to three years. As of April 2020, a total of over one million Tesla vehicles are on the road worldwide, of which more than 525,000 are Model 3’s. As a result, the Model 3 overtook the Nissan Leaf as the world’s best-selling e-car in mid-2019. Registration figures are also rising significantly in Germany. As of May 2020, almost 25,000 Tesla cars are registered in this country, more than half of which are Model 3s, which was introduced in Germany just a year ago. Reason enough to take a closer look at this model to find out why this purely electrically powered car is selling so successfully.

So, I went on tour with the Model 3, this time along the German Alpine Road from Bad Tölz to Berchtesgaden, up into the Bavarian Forest and back. I spent spent four days and a total of 1,000 kilometers on some of the most beautiful roads of Bavaria, but also on fast freeways such as the Autobahn A92 from Deggendorf to Munich and the A95 between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The question was: How does this spectacular and technologically advanced car drive, and what about charging and range in everyday use?

If you are interested in the detailed travel report on the route, the sights, and the selected stopovers, you will find it on Oberland.de.

About the vehicle

The Tesla Model 3 is a four-door, five-seater sedan the size of an Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C Class. Four adults can be comfortably seated in it, a fifth person fits in the middle of the back for shorter distances, and because of the large, full-length panoramic glass roof (with UV protection), headroom is very good both front and back. In general, the space available and the stowage volume is unusually good, because a large number of components are omitted in an e-car compared to a conventional car with an internal combustion engine: in the rear, for example, the tank and in the front, voluminous units such as the combustion engine with clutch, gearbox and radiator. In addition, there is no central tunnel running lengthwise through the interior because no exhaust system with silencer and no cardan shaft are required. Instead, there is a trunk at both the front and rear and plenty of legroom for the middle space of the rear seat. The front individual seats are very comfortable, offer good support and are electrically adjustable in all directions, including the lumbar support.

The vehicle provided by Tesla Germany was the “Dual Motor Long Range” version. This version is equipped with an electric motor each on the front axle and the rear axle for four-wheel drive with a total output of 340 kW (462 hp) and a large 75kWh battery, for a maximum range of 560 kilometres according to the WLTP test procedure introduced in the EU in 2017.

Driving style and consumption are closely related

In practice, WLTP test values are hardly ever achieved. But with a relaxed and fluid driving style, between 375 kilometres and 425 kilometres were quite achievable in everyday use, which corresponds to a consumption of 17 to 20 kWh per 100 kilometres. The decisive factor for the range is above all a forward-looking driving style, in which the energy recovery (recuperation) of the electric motors instead of the foot brake is optimally used to reduce speed. Apart from parking (P) and neutral (N), there is only one forward gear (D) and a reverse gear (R). As soon as you select “D”, you can drive off; and in fact, it is very easy and pleasant to regulate the speed of the vehicle completely with the accelerator pedal, from starting to stopping. Recuperation is noticeably variable: depending on the modulation of the accelerator pedal, the car accelerates or brakes, and if you take your foot completely off the pedal, the braking is just right for a comfortable, smooth stop. When stopping, the car is automatically held, so that it does not roll forward or backward on an incline.

For low energy consumption, low wind resistance is crucial in addition to a forward-looking driving style and optimal use of recuperation. This is where the Model 3 with its sleek, smooth body performs extremely well. At 0.23, its drag coefficient (cw value) is well below that of comparable saloons and sports cars, whose cw value is typically above 0.30.

Ultimately, however, the decisive intelligence that ensures low consumption is in the driver’s seat.

Charging

Tesla operates 72 of its own fast charging stations, so-called Superchargers, along the motorway network in Germany with a total of 666 charging spots. Here, the Model 3 can charge an almost empty battery to a range of 270 kilometres in 15 minutes. If you want to fully recharge, it will take just under an hour. However, the optimum charge is about 80% of the battery capacity, and this is reached in 30 to 45 minutes with a nearly empty battery, depending on the specific performance of the Supercharger.

Further Tesla charging stations can be found at so-called Destination Chargers at hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and shopping centres, which are available to their customers. Destination Chargers are currently available at around 500 locations in Germany, typically offering two charging spots each. In Austria and Switzerland, the density of Tesla charging stations is significantly higher than in Germany, so you can travel there with your Tesla with peace of mind.

In addition, there are currently around 19,500 independent charging stations in Germany with almost 64,000 charging spots, where a Model 3 can also be charged using a standard TYPE 2 or CCS connection – around 4,000 more than a year ago. By way of comparison, there are currently 14,400 filling stations for petrol and diesel in Germany (as of April 2020).

However, a separate wall charging station (“wall box”) at home is the ideal solution: most private homes allow a maximum charging rate of 11 kW, which corresponds to a range of up to 65 kilometers per charging hour. This is more than sufficient for charging overnight. This means that you usually drive from home with a full battery and only need to charge on the road if you drive more than 400 kilometers per day or are on the road for more than a day.

What about autonomous driving?

Model 3 is equipped with comprehensive driver assistance systems, such as proximity cruise control, lane departure warning, lane change assistant, light assistant, emergency brake assistant, parking assistant and more. The hardware for fully autonomous driving (SAE level 5) is already installed in Model 3, so that the functionality can be upgraded in future via software updates over the air. This includes a radar sensor in the front bumper and eight cameras all around. At present, Level 3 of autonomous driving has been implemented, and anyone who likes to be driven by the car instead of driving themselves can look forward to future software upgrades. In any case, the currently active assistance systems will contribute to increased road safety.

Those who (still) prefer to drive themselves and have fun doing so can enjoy the excellent sporty driving characteristics and the amazing dynamics and performance of the Model 3. In a test review from November 2019, the ADAC rated the Model 3s electric drive system “outstanding”, and the test engineers certified the Model 3’s exceptional driving performance, running characteristics and power delivery. ADAC quote: “The handling of the Model 3 also meets the highest demands. The advantage of the all-wheel-drive version: depending on where more drive power is needed, the electric motors on the front or rear axle can react variably and at lightning speed. Both versions master the evasion test by slightly understeering, but sliding over the front axle in a well-controlled manner. The suspension is sporty and taut here and there. Small deficits in suspension comfort are gladly forgiven. The steering convinces with a harmonious feel, good precision and clear centering. Drive influences are not an issue despite the enormous torque. The Model 3 does not show any weakness when braking either. 34.1 or 34.4 metres of braking distance are sufficient to decelerate from 100 km/h to a standstill.”

I can absolutely agree with this assessment by the ADAC. The Model 3 accelerates from a standstill like an arrow launched from a spanned bow – continuing to well beyond speed limits. Handling is very precise and, with its wide track and wide sports tyres, its low centre of gravity and balanced weight distribution, fast cornering is both fun and safe. On a straight it is stable as a maglev train.

The operating concept

For many people, the “driver interface” of the Model 3 will initially take some getting used to, because there is no conventional instrument panel. Instead, virtually all displays and functions are provided by a single, centrally located, iPad-like 15-inch display. Even the glove compartment is opened via this touch display. There are just two levers on the steering column – one on the left for the indicators and wipers, one on the right for the gears (R, N, D and P) and the cruise control. On the steering wheel itself there is a spherical scroll wheel to the left and right of the horn. The left-hand scroll wheel is used for volume control and for adjusting the side mirrors. The right scroll wheel is used to set the desired speed of the cruise control or, when the vehicle is stationary, the height and angle of the steering wheel. The large display is very easy to use because the menus are logically structured and the symbols are intuitively understandable. Important and frequently used functions are easy to reach, only the variety of functions and settings seem overwhelming at first glance. Ultimately, the clear visual presentation of the functions on the display simplifies operation in comparison to the large number of scattered mechanical rotary, pushbutton and toggle switches that are usually found in modern cars.

However, a head-up display that projects the most important driving information, such as speed and remaining range, onto the windshield in the driver’s field of vision would be a desirable feature.

An interesting feature made possible by the cameras installed all around the car is the so-called Sentry Mode. When this is activated, the cameras and sensors monitor the vehicle’s surroundings while it is parked and locked. If a threat is detected, a warning or alarm is triggered depending on the type of threat, and the cameras record videos of the vehicle’s surroundings.

Conclusion

The Tesla Model 3 is a fascinating and trendsetting premium electric car that guarantees a lot of driving pleasure. As a four-door mid-size sedan, it is very comfortable, practical and absolutely suitable for everyday use for all journeys, short and long, including holiday trips and long-distance trips on the motorway. Often criticized shortcomings in the workmanship of the Model 3 could not be reproduced in the vehicle provided. The paintwork and the gap dimensions were flawless, nothing rattled, and the interior was also perfectly finished.

More information about the Tesla Model 3:

Tesla Motors website

ADAC test of November 5, 2019

Dynamic Retail Pricing

In March 2017 McKinsey&Co published an article titled “How Retailers can drive profitable growth through dynamic pricing“, in which they state, that:

  • Dynamic pricing is a critical capability for competing in retail to drive revenue and margin growth, and
  • Dynamic pricing plays a crucial role in improving both consumer price perception and retailer profitability.

McKinsey&Co’s article describes five different methods of dynamic pricing each handled by separate modules working in parallel to generate price recommendations for every product in different product categories with different competitive attributes with respect to price sensitivity. The five modules each consist of rules and algorithms based on analytics and mathematical models, each constructed to handle five different cases:

KVI Module: this module addresses the Key Value Items, which are the top sellers and traffic generators, that consumers tend to remember. These are the most price sensitive products, or more generally speaking: cases or situations when the Price Elasticity of Demand >= 1. In the retail fuel market, this would equally apply to certain times of the day. This possibly relates to 80% of transactions generating only 20% af margin.

Long-Tail Module: with Long-Tail products McKinsey&Co’s article refers to products that are new or have no historical data. The key characteristic here is, that products typically have very low price sensitivity, since consumers have no comparison or no experience with them. Specifically in the case of retail fuel, the reason for low price sensitivity could also be the time of day, location, need, convenience, or the case where the customer isn’t paying for the fuel himself, because he drives a company car or has a fleet card.

Elasticity Module: this module actually addresses the core of dynamic pricing: price elasticity of demand and cross-price elasticity of demand. How does customer demand for a product respond to changes in its price over time and in relation to competitive products’ prices, as well as competitors’ pricing of the same product? This is the ultimate customer centric approach to pricing. The better knowledge you have of the price elasticities of demand, the better you can price to optimise profit and volume (market share) according to your goals. And if you can do this within minutes for each product at each location at any time, you have the perfect dynamic pricing solution.

Competitive-Response Module: this is a rule-based module that prices products as a rule-based response to competitors’ prices and price changes. It is the traditional pricing method of the price-follower who manually responds to what competitors do. This can obviously be improved with automated data collection and processing with decision-tree algorithms of various complexity.

Omnichannel Module: the purpose of this module is to coordinate prices between the retailer’s different channels, like online and offline, if applicable. In the case of fuel retailers this could serve as a differentiation between manned and unmanned stations, i.e. locations with convenience store and facilities versus locations with fuel pumps only and automated payment.

McKinsey&Co’s article illustrates with three case examples, how specific retailers have tailored dynamic-pricing methods to their particular business needs and objectives by carefully differentiating between products (SKUs) according to their demand attributes and applying the methods of one or more of the five modules described.

As McKinsey&Co point out, a best-in-class solution includes all five modules. However, developing such a world-class dynamic-pricing solution is no mundane task, but a rather complex project, that requires a task force of professional data scientists and IT specialists. And the team should preferably have a thorough understanding of the retailer’s industry, business context and objectives.

The reward that retail businesses can expect to capture from dynamic pricing is significant and sustained: McKinsey&Co states a typical impact of 5-10% in margin increase, and a volume growth of 2-5% – along with higher levels of customer satisfaction through improved price perception.

There is no doubt to me, that dynamic pricing offers a significant competitive advantage, and in view of a potentially shrinking retail fuel market indicated by future e-mobility and increasing market consolidation, dynamic pricing has become a necessary capability to grow or at least maintain profitability – especially for small and medium sized businesses.

Trump truer BMW med importafgifter

BMW fabrik i Spartanburg USA

Trumps udtalelser til den tyske avis BILD-Zeitung om at pålægge 35% afgift på tyske biler der produceres i Mexiko og importeres til USA er blevet modtaget med en blanding af irritation, nervøsitet og forundring.

Man har endnu ingen praktiske erfaringer med en så radikalt optrædende amerikansk præsident, der skyder den ene ufattelige udtalelse af efter den anden. Han får først overgivet magten den 20. januar, men han har allerede siden valget i november truet så mange med så meget, at ingen ved hvad man kan regne med.

Det er en meget usikker situation, når verdens måske mest magtfulde person kommer med så vilkårlige og kategorisk imperative udtalelser, som – hvis de holder stik – på kort sigt kan gøre budgetter til papiraffald og mellemlangt sigt vende op og ned på struktur- og konkurrenceforholdene i Tysklands nok tungeste og mest forgrenede produktions- og eksportsektor.

Hvis Trump som præsident rent faktisk inden for en kortere tidshorisont får magt til at gennemføre det han siger, så står de tyske bilkoncerners udviklings- og produktionsstrategier på spil, og det kommer til at koste dem dyrt i form af både afgifter og ikke mindst omdisponering af investeringer i bestående og fremtidige fabrikker. Hele produktionsplanlægningen vil kuldkastes, hvis Trump får mulighed for at føre truslerne ud i livet.

Det giver imidlertid meget lidt mening at indføre en importtold for biler produceret udenfor USA. Både BMW og Daimler producerer 10-20% flere biler i USA end de afsætter der, dvs. de netto eksporterer biler fra USA til andre lande. Faktisk eksporterer BMW 70% af de SUVs, som de producerer i USA til andre lande, herunder Tyskland. Desuden udgør arbejdslønnen kun en lille del af produktionsværdien. Færdige komponenter og moduler bliver importeret til USA, bl.a. fra Verdens tre største underleverandører – BOSCH, Continental og ZF – som også producerer i Mexiko. I sidste ende kan Trump komme til at starte en skrue uden ende af gensidige import afgifter og begrænsninger, hvis han omgår eller sletter NAFTA frihandelsaftalen.

En meningsmåling på nettet foretaget af det tyske fagblad “Automobil-Produktion” viser (status 21.01.17, kl. 14:15, 346 svar) følgende vurdering af, hvordan man bør reagere på Trumps udtalelse om at pålægge en 35% afgift på tyske biler der produceres i Mexiko og importeres til USA:

  1. Fastholde den nuværende strategi og fortsætte med at udbygge produktionen globalt – herunder også i Mexiko:  46%
  2. Forholde sig afventende og reagere flexibelt:  47%
  3. Forberede sig på at flytte mere af produktionen til USA:  7%

BMW’s direktion udtalte kort efter Trumps trussel, at man fastholder planerne om at udbygge produktionen i Mexiko.

Schaeffler Venture Forum

Schaeffler AG er som industrikoncern (Engineering Group) nummer syv på Tysklands top 10 liste over underleverandør til bilindustrien, og koncernen omsatte i 2015 for 13 mia. € med knap 85.000 medarbejdere.

Koncernen afholder til forår en konkurrence – eller ‘venture cup’ –, hvor man søger startups samt små og mellemstore virksomheder (SMV), som er interesserede i at få Schaeffler som partner, kunde eller investor. Det skal være virksomheder, som sidder inde med banebrydende teknologi know-how, opfindelser og innovationer med potentiale med hensyn til mobilitet i fremtiden.

Som en global automotive leverandør er Schaeffler især på udkig efter sensorteknologi, avancerede data analytiske løsninger og løsninger til autonome systemer. Konkret har man fokus på:

  • Sensor teknologi
    Intelligente, selvforsynende og robuste sensorer med høj målenøjagtighed til automotive og industri anvendelser.
  • Avanceret Data Analytics
    Indlagrede systemer, som kan levere real-time data og analyser til cloud baserede infrastrukturer.
  • Software og Hardware
    Machine Learning, Computer Vision, LiDAR, Radar eller lignende.

Interesserede virksomheder har mulighed for at præsentere deres viden, kunnen og teknologier på Schaefflers Venture Forum den 22.-23. maj i Herzogenaurach lidt nord for Nürnberg. Ansøgningsfristen for deltagelse er 19. marts 2017.

Mere information her:  Schaeffler Venture Forum

Cyber Valley i Sydtyskland

‘Max Planck Society for Advancement of Science’ er en af de førende tyske institutioner inden for grundforskningen. Det er en nonprofit organisation med hovedsæde i Berlin, som driver mere end 80 forskningsinstitutter og institutioner rund omkring i Tyskland. Et af disse institutter er Max-Planck-Institut for Intelligente Systemer, som har afdelinger i tilknytning til universiteterne Stuttgart og Tübingen, og netop disse tre institutioner er nu gået sammen om at oprette et omfattende klynge projekt kaldet “Cyber Valley” med offentlig støtte fra både delstaten Baden-Württemberg og en række store spillere fra erhvervslivet.

Det er blandt andre virksomhederne Bosch, Daimler, Porsche, BMW, ZF Friedrichshafen og Facebook som er partnere og sponsorer af Cyber Valley, der på bedste Silicon Valley maner skal bidrage til at udvikler resultater fra forskningen til praktiske industrielle anvendelser.

Formålet med klyngen er at lære af eksempler fra naturen til at forstå de underliggende kontrol- og styringsmekanismer omkring opfattelse, handling og læring, samt at bringe disse principper til anvendelse i intelligente, selvlærende systemer. Cyber Valley projektets fokus er således teknologier inden for kunstig intelligens og Machine Learning, d.v.s. selv-lærende computersystemer baseret på neurale netværk, som finder mønstre i store data mængder (Big Data).

Cyber Valley klyngen samler forskningsaktiviteter blandt internationale Key Players fra videnskab og industri i et af de største anvendelsesorienterede forskningssamarbejder i Europa inden for kunstig intelligens.

IBM investerer i München

munich_infographic_9-30-v4IBM investerer 200 mio. dollar i et nyt worldwide “Watson Internet of Things (IoT)” headquarter i München. Det er til dato en af de største investeringer IBM har foretaget i Europa.

Her vil man fremover dels udarbejde nye IoT-løsniger omkring Blockchain og sikkerheds-teknlogier, og dels i samarbejde med kunder finde på nye ideer og innovationer til at skabe nytte og økonomisk værdi af de enorme mængder af sensor data, som løbende genereres i for eksempel køretøjer og produktionsanlæg. Det drejer sig bl.a. også om at udvikle løsninger til at øge effektiviteten og produktiviteten i industrien gennem kombinationen af Big Data fra IoT og kunstig intelligens fra Watson.

IBM har allerede i dag ca. 6.000 internationale kunder, som udnytter Watson’s kognitive egenskaber og IoT data; det er 2.000 flere end i begyndelsen af året.

Det nye Watson IoT headquarter i München skal for første gang omfatte kollaborationsmuligheder i form af laboratorier, hvor kunder kan samarbejde med IBM’s forskere, ingeniører og designere omkring udviklingen af innovationer indenfor specielt brancherne automobil, elektronik, produktion, sundhed og forsikring. Her er det hensigten i fællesskab at udvikle koncepter, løsninger og forretningsmodeller.

Tyskland har fokus på den 4. industrielle revolution – “Industrie 4.0” – og er godt i gang med digitalisering af produktionssektoren, og metropolregionen omkring München er et absolut hot spot i den sammenhæng, hvor know how og teknologivirksomheder er koncentreret. Det er derfor naturligt, at IBM har valgt at placere et hovedkontor for IoT, Big Data og kunstig intelligens netop i München.

Tysklands økonomi får stærke impulser fra automobilsektoren

bilproduktionTysklands økonomi er fortsat i opsving. De seneste otte kvartaler har ligget pænt i plus, og for 2016 som helhed ser det nu ud til et samlet plus på mellem 1,7 og 2%. Dermed er Tyskland fortsat den største drivkraft i EU.

Afsætningen på eksportmarkederne er dog ikke vokset helt så stærkt, hvilket især gør sig gældende for det kinesiske marked, men til gengæld er det indenlandske forbrug steget som følge af den høje beskæftigelse og deraf følgende lønstigninger. Forbrugerne har penge at give ud af, og det gør de så frem for at lægge dem i sparebøssen eller på kontoen, hvor man alligevel ingen renter får. Man ser det også på boligmarkedet, hvor priserne for både lejemål og køb er gået tydeligt opad.

Tysklands styrke ligger i landets store produktions- og eksportandel. Landet har fremdeles den højeste produktionsandel blandt de højtudviklede industrilande. Den ligger på over 25% af BNP, og de største sektorer er automobilindustrien, maskinindustrien, pharma-, kemi- og biotechsektoren samt informations- og kommunikations-teknologi (IKT).

Der hvor det generelt set halter en lille smule i øjeblikket er ved investeringerne. Trods et positivt økonomiske klima og virksomhedernes gode forventninger til den fremtidige afsætning, så kan der i øjeblikket spores en vis tilbageholdenhed med investeringer i lager og produktionskapacitet. Det er typisk udtryk for tysk forsigtighed og risiko aversion, men kan også skyldes usikkerhed med hensyn til, hvilke sektorer og eksportmarkeder kan forventes at trække, og hvornår.

Automobilindustrien er dog en undtagelse, for den er helt klart inde i en større teknologisk og strukturel forandring. Stadig strengere krav til emmissionsgrænseværdier og nye trends i forbrugerønsker med hensyn til mobilitet stiller hele sektoren over for ganske store udfordringer. Alle tre store tyske producenter – Volkswagen-gruppen, BMW og Daimler – har bekendtgjort eller er allerede igang med at omsætte planer vedrørende investeringer i elbiler, autopilot-løsninger, internet-konnektivitet, digitalisering af produktionsprocesser og carsharing-forretningsmodeller.

Volkswagens masterplan “Strategie 2025”, der blev præsenteret i juni i år, omfatter for eksempel investeringer på et 2-cifret milliardbeløb i opbygning af både nye forretningsområder og udvikling af elbiler. I løbet af de kommende ti år vil koncernen sende over 30 rene elbiler på markedet, og planen er, at omsætningen med elbiler da vil komme til at udgøre omkring 25%. Volkswagen hæger endog planer om at etablere en egen batterifabrik.

Daimler er ligeledes i gang med at ændre koncernens struktur og strategi for de kommende år, og også her investerer man milliarder i både elektromobilitet.

Hver af de ovenfor nævnte investeringsmål står i sig selv mere eller mindre for paradigmeskift for den tyske bilindustri, for man skal først til at opbygge eller tilkøbe de nødvendige kapaciteter og kompetencer inden for for eksempel elmotorer, batterimanagement, software og elektronik. Det kommer hen ad vejen til at medføre markante branche- og struktur-forskydninger. Investeringerne vil efterhånden brede sig langt ud i systemet af underleverandører, som allerede i dag står for 80% af værdiskabelsen i sektoren, samt videre til andre industrigrene, som leverer råvarerne.

Det vil utvivlsomt føre til, at de tendenser vi ser i automobilsektoren nu vil give den tyske økonomi en ekstra vækstimpuls, som vil have stærke eftervirkninger de næste 5-10 år.

Tysklands bilindustri forandrer sig stærkt

New Cars

Tyskland er en industrination par excellence med en produktions andel på mere end 25% af BNP. Det er dette forhold sammen med landets store eksportoverskud som i mange år har været og stadig er væsentligt for landets økonomiske styrke og robusthed overfor diverse kriser og konjunkturudsving. Den største industrigren er bilindustrien, der omfatter verdens største bilproducent Volkswagen og de førende premium mærker Audi, BMW, Mercedes og Porsche. Denne traditionelt dominerende branche er inden for det sidste års tid kommet under pres fra forskellige sider, netop på grund af dens størrelse og betydning for tysk økonomi. Den har nemlig haft mægtig indflydelse på politik, offentlige investeringer og lovgivning, som har tilgodeset branchens interesser og teknologiske kompetencer. Det har bl.a. betydet at man for længe har holdt fast i og optimeret på konventionelle forbrændingsmotorer, især dieselmotorer, mens man har nedprioriteret og forsømt at udvikle elbiler.

Nu er der imidlertid inden for relativ kort tid sket to ting, som har tvunget bilproducenterne til at ændre kurs på en måde der får stor indflydelse på hele branchen, der udgøres af ikke blot producenterne selv men hundredvis af store og små underleverandører, som står for 80% af værdiskabelsen i sektoren.

Først var det en lille virksomhed fra Silicon Valley, Tesla Motors, der bragte en luksus elbil på markedet og inden for et par år begyndte at true afsætningen af tyske luksusbiler på vigtige markeder som USA og Schweiz. Image- og prestigetabet ramte hårdt, og den ingeniørmæssige præstation – design, kvalitet og ydeevne – kunne ikke bortforklares.

Men det der for alvor har skabt uro og tvunget hele branchen til at ændre fokus og revidere investeringsplaner og produktudviklings strategier er Volkswagens “Dieselgate”. Netop ved åbningen af Tysklands internationale biludstilling, IAA, i Frankfurt i september 2015 sprang bomben: amerikanske miljømyndigheder offentliggjorde testresultater der viste, at Volkswagen modeller med dieselmotor ved normal kørsel udstødte langt mere NOx end tilladt, og at Volkswagen åbenbart havde snydt med et software trick i motorstyringen, således at disse biler alligevel overholdt lovkravene mens de blev testet i forbindelse med deres typegodkendelse. Volkswagen måtte indrømme snyderiet og at det desuden ikke kun berørte ca. 500.000 biler eksporteret til USA, men mere end 11 millioner biler solgt i hele verden. Dette udløste et jordskred af anklager mod Volkswagen fra både myndigheder og kunder, en bølge af afskedigelser af ansvarlige ledere helt op på direktions niveau, og en dyb selvransagelse med hensyn til hvor Volkswagen vil hen.

Afsløringen viste desuden at grænsen er nået for hvor økonomisk og miljøvenlig en dieselmotor kan gøres, og at selv marginale forbedringer kun kan opnåes med meget dyre og teknologisk komplekse løsninger til rensning af udstødningsgassen. Derfor har alle tyske bilproducenter i løbet af det sidste halve år bekendt sig til at investere i udviklingen af elbiler på bekostning af videreudviklingen af dieselmotorer.

Volkswagens CEO, Matthias Müller, talte om en “epokegørende forandring” da han den 16. juni præsenterede koncernens “Strategie 2025”. Inden 2025 vil ca. hver fjerde bil, som Volkswagen producerer, være batteridrevet; og med det mål overvejer Volkswagen at bygge en egen batterifabrik. I et interview med det tyske “Handelsblatt” udtalte Müller, at han har respekt for Tesla, men at han ikke er bange for deres succes og henviser til, at Volkswagen ofte er startet senere end andre og alligevel er blevet førende.

Også Daimler (Mercedes) har det seneste år kigget nøje på, hvad der foregår i Silicon Valley hos Tesla, Apple og Google, og koncernchef Dieter Zetsche og hans kronprins Ola Källenius er i fuld gang med at ændre koncernens struktur og strategi for de kommende år. Daimler investerer milliarder af Euro i elektromobilitet, og den første batteridrevne Mercedes forventes præsenteret på “Paris Motor Show” i slutningen af september i år. Det bliver SUV-modellen GLC, som vil blive et stærkt modspil til Teslas Model X. Yderligere seks ny batteridrevne Mercedes modeller skal introduceres i løbet af de næste tre år.

Det vil medføre store forandringer i hele branchen, for der er ingen af de tyske producenter som har spidskompetencer med hensyn til hverken elmotorer, batterimanagement, software eller elektronik; og der er ingen batteriproduktion af betydning i Tyskland. Det vil sige, at man langt hen ad vejen bliver afhængig af tilkøb af batterier, motorer, elektronik og knowhow fra såvel tyske underleverandører, herunder Bosch og Siemens, som udenlandske leverandører.

Det bliver en ny epoke for Tysklands bilindustri.

Innovative underleverandører i Bayern

Bayern-Innovativ_Pressefoto_ZuliefererInnovat
Bilindustriens underleverandører mødtes i BMW Welt den 4.-5. juli 2016

Automobilindustrien er stærkt repræsenteret i Bayern, faktisk er det Bayerns absolut største industrigren med en omsætning på over 110 milliarder Euro, hvoraf eksportandelen udgør næsten 70%. Det hænger sammen med at Audi, BMW, Mini og MAN har hjemme i Bayern, og at 25% af alle biler der produceres i Tyskland kommer fra Bayern. Desuden er der i Bayern flere end 1.100 store og små industri- og ingeniørvirksomheder, som er en del af bilindustriens ‘supply chain’ som direkte eller indirekte underleverandører (Tier 1–4) til de nævnte mærker – såvel som de andre mærker i Sydtyskland (Mercedes, Smart, Porsche) og resten af Tyskland (navnlig Volkswagen).

Alle disse virksomheder er på mange måder i samme båd som bil producenterne (OEM), fordi de er stærkt afhængige af hinanden hvad angår den høje specifikationsgrad af de moduler og komponenter, som skal leveres ‘just-in-time and sequence’. De er desuden stærkt forbundne med hinanden gennem den forskning og udvikling der foregår omkring produktudvikling og den udveksling af knowhow, som er nødvendig.

Her spiller klynger og innovationsnetværk en vigtig rolle, som fx. klyngen Cluster Automotive og netværket BAIKA (“Bayerische Innovations- und Kooperationsinitiative Automobilzulieferindustrie”), som begge er tilknyttet organisationen Bayern Innovativ (“Gesellschaft für Innovation, Technologie- und Wissenstransfer in Bayern”). Disse organiserer i samarbejde med Verband der Automobilindustri (VDA) kongresser og workshops med solid sponsoring fra de store virksomheder i branchen. Den årlige 2-dages kongres “Zulieferer Innovativ” er netop blevet afholdt i BMW Welt i München med ca. 400 deltagere.

Ved dette års kongres var det helt tydeligt, at elektromobilitet, digitalisering og autopilot egenskaber er kommet i fokus, meget stærkere end det var tilfældet for et år siden. Selv Tesla Motors var inviteret og deltog med en bragende anderledes og åben tale om virksomhedes mission, strategi, forretningsmodel og planer. Det stryger stadig mange af de traditionelle maskiningeniører med benzin i blodet mod hårene at høre om Teslas succes og hvor branchen er på vej hen. Men man mærker helt klart impulserne fra en ny generation af fagfolk der er vokset op med internet, Apple, Google, smartphones etc., og nye virksomheder, der opstår i kombinationen af IKT, elektronik og mekanik, og som rider på bølgen af den accelererende teknologiske udvikling.

Nu er der opbrud og ombrydninger i branchen, som giver chancer for nye samarbejder og vækst for både virksomhederne og for Bayern.