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KPMG and Egon Zehnder Find Automotive Industry Culture a Roadblock to Digital Transformation

A comprehensive study of the automotive industry has found that driving cultural change is one of the most significant barriers to digital transformation. Leaders recognize the unprecedented challenge now facing them, but have yet to establish the digital-ready culture needed to meet it.

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The research, published jointly today by KPMG and Egon Zehnder, asked over 500 senior executives globally about the effects of Digital Gravity – the study’s term for the forces that compel companies to prepare for digital transformation.

Key findings from the study included:

  • 92% of executives believe that their company culture must be redefined to face the challenge of digital transformation but over half (55%) have failed to do this. Even fewer are open to specific shifts towards a digital-ready culture such as creating a failure-tolerant environment (28%) and flattening hierarchies (34%).
  • Executives are still thinking about digital transformation in terms of process change rather than a shift in mindset. 57% of interviewees cited process change as a prerequisite for digitalization, while cultural change and leadership awareness were cited least frequently (by 43% and 39% of executives).
  • When asked about AI and other digitalization technologies, almost 50% reveal their company is an “early follower”, while only 40% aim to be first movers. Japanese executives show particular hesitancy to use these technologies, with 43% saying they are a “late follower” vs 10% globally.
  • The most popular approach among automotive executives is to drive digitalization by cooperating with players from their own industry rather than with disruptive non-industry players or tech companies.
  • 66% say that traditional and new business models need to run “side by side,” while only 34% are willing to risk lower returns in the short term by radically pivoting to a digital-ready business model.

Dieter Becker, Global and EMA Head Automotive Practice, KPMG International: “Our survey clearly shows that the industry is caught up in its traditional ‘product optimization’/tech mindset and ‘I can do it all myself’ approach. A clear and revolutionary vision is lacking. What’s needed to positively shift the automotive industry are bold, equitable partnerships with external and digital players. We are entering an era where cultural hires and Diverse Network Families (DNF) are a must for the industry moving forward.”

Christian Rosen, Global Head of the Automotive Practice of Egon Zehnder, calls for humble leadership which empowers a new culture that bridges the gap between traditional and digital expertise: “Digital Gravity is irresistible, but the industry can meet this challenge by adopting a more open, collaborative style of leadership and creating a culture of self-invention.”

Both authors praised the high degree of awareness documented throughout the survey. They also acknowledged that new players have the advantage of starting with a digital-first mindset rather than pivoting a well-established business. In the words of Dieter Becker of KPMG, having to shift business model is “not necessarily a disadvantage – it can be transformed into a winning hand.” “In the end,” adds Christian Rosen, “those players who can balance digital transformation and high-class production will emerge victorious in the mobility sector.”

For all of the study’s findings, please visit https://automotive-institute.kpmg.de/egonzehnder

Notes to editors

Methodology:

The findings of this study are divided into two categories:

  • the current state of internal, external, and technological drivers;
  • a roadmap for tackling Digital Gravity from within (organization, culture, leadership)

For this survey, we interviewed 527 high-level executives. This was evenly distributed (approx. 25% each) between CEOs/presidents/chairmen, C-level executives, heads of business unit/business division, and heads of department, providing us with insights into every executive level.

Executives were not given a definition of “digitalization” but rather asked about their own approach and understanding of the term.

More than one-third of the respondents are based in Europe, while 15% come from North America. 71 executives, or 13%, work in the Mature Asia region of Japan and South Korea. 7 to 10% each originate from China, India & ASEAN, South America, and Eastern Europe. The Rest of the World is represented by the remaining 3%.

27% of our respondents work at companies with revenues of between US$1 billion and US$10 billion, and 21% at companies with revenues higher than US$10 billion.

The survey was conducted mainly online and took place between December 2018 and January 2019. A further 30 experts were interviewed separately to provide additional individual input for our evaluation.

Contact:

For press requests, please contact: KPMG: Lauren Mostowyk, lmostowyk@kpmg.ca , + 14167773155 Egon Zehnder: Hilary Crnkovich, Hilary@egonzehnder.com , +13122608978

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