These are bleak, brutal times, led at the time of writing by job losses at McLaren (1200 going at a workforce of 4000), Bentley (1000 out of 4000) and Aston Martin (500 out of 2600). Given reports that the top end of the market was positioned to be better insulated from the downturn than the mainstream, you can’t help but worry that there is considerably more bad news on the way.
But one thing you can rely on is that the car industry will adapt to prevailing conditions. It always has and it always will: for all its faults, this is a business jam-packed with problem solvers of the highest calibre.
Of course, there will be casualties, most emotively among hard-working and talented workforces decimated merely to balance books, but also, you have to suspect, among the brands themselves. The car-making model was challenged long before this crisis and looks fatally flawed when rightsizing means 20% to 25% cuts in the workforce.
There will also be opportunities, though. A three-minute browse of LinkedIn highlights job openings at Arrival, Genesis, Ineos, LEVC, Lotus, Lucid, Karma, Rimac, Rivian and Polestar. Not all of those names may be familiar, but this isn’t a once-in-a-generation shift: it is a once-in-a-century one. Embrace that change, and who knows what’s possible?
As Steve Cropley’s Dyson scoop last week highlights all too well, not all of those names may survive into the future, but most are well funded and trying to alter the status quo. Sounds exciting, right? Automotive workers with flexible mindsets may discover opportunities they never realised existed. Tesla’s rise must be a shining example to all that it can be done – even if they don’t want to adopt all of Elon Musk’s business tactics wholeheartedly.
The pertinence of leadership should not be lost in that glib line, either. Musk has arguably achieved more than any other car manufacturer boss has managed in… well, decades at least. Thinking differently has opened a path few thought could be trodden.
Leadership comes in many forms, but history suggests it matters not if the voice behind it is a creative genius or laser-straight accountant so long as they are prepared to stand tall, make decisions and surround themselves with a broad spectrum of challenging talents. That won’t guarantee success, but it will mean direction.
As the bad news rolls, it’s worth sifting between who is stopping on the negative and who is looking for opportunity out of adversity. Actions need to follow words, of course, but in uncertain times, from individuals through to mega-corporations, freethinking and a certainty of purpose can be galvanising forces.