During the past twenty years, investment in R&D by manufacturers and automotive suppliers has helped meet the many challenges now facing the industry: performance, safety, productivity gains, regulations, quality, internationalisation, communication/telematics, decontamination and hybridisation.
Even today, after several tough years that produced significant overcapacity especially in Europe, the automotive industry is reinventing itself and introducing innovations in a whole number of fields: networked cars, electric engines, driver assistance, self-diagnostic, etc. Electronics are increasingly present, in both the vehicle and the passenger compartment.
In a sector under a lot of pressure, the strategy of manufacturers varies considerably from one region to the next.
European volume car-makers, who have suffered considerably, are looking to pool their production platforms to optimise costs. Product plans are now taking into account emerging countries, thinking along lines of adapting to local supply and setting up local R&D centres. In Germany, premium auto-makers BMW, Audi, Porsche are in robust good health and taking full advantage of growth of countries like China, where they are expanding their local industrial facilities. Experts are predicting an average annual rise in global car sales of 5.6% between now and 2018, of which 83% in emerging markets, the most prominent of which are China (40.4%), India (12.6%) and Brazil (6.4%). Faced with a highly disparate market, product supply has expanded and been broken up into segments, calling on increasingly sophisticated technologies.