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What Keeps Auto Industry Execs Up At Night?

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

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America’s auto market is on the road to recovery, but before sales return to pre-recession levels, the auto industry still has to dodge a few potholes. What might those be?

To find out, you could ask economists, or dealers, or even consumers. But the Dykema Automotive Institute went straight to the top and polled 100 industry executives. Its findings — detailed in Dykema’s 2012 Automotive Institute Survey — are interesting, to say the least.

Of the bigwigs who responded to the survey, 29% worked for automakers, 45% were parts suppliers, 20% were service providers, and another 5% worked for companies that supply raw materials. Here are some of the major takeaways:

  • Over 92% said that they’d seen an increase in demand for their company’s products/services over the past year. Most — 76.8% — have had to make internal changes to meet that growing demand.
  • When asked about future kinks in the supply chain, far and away the biggest concern was the availability of raw materials — a worry for 38.9% of respondents. The availability of securing loans (for their companies, not for consumers) came in a distant second at 21%.
  • Given that vehicles are becoming increasingly connected to the web, Dykema asked respondents about their biggest concerns on that front. Just over 35% said that they were worried about the distractions that accompany connected cars. However, more than 28% said they had no real concerns. 
  • When asked about investments in technology, 60.5% said that the were developing “sensor-based safety systems that either warn or assist drivers in potential collision situations” (much like the ones we’ve seen debuted by Nissan this week). A respectable 43.4% said that they were working on vehicle-to-vehicle technology, but even more — 55.3% — said that their companies were working on vehicle-to-infrastructure or systems, which would allow cars to “talk” to traffic lights and other elements on the grid. 
  • On the legislative front, the biggest issue of concern was “energy and environmental legislation”. Though Dykema didn’t ask respondents to elaborate, we have a strong hunch that these worries are related to the EPA’s new CAFE guidelines. Coming in a moderately close second was “transportation legislation” — though in fairness, the survey was fielded over the summer, as Congress was putting the finishing touches on the contentious surface transportation bill. If Dykema asked the question again today, transportation legislation might not be such a high priority. 

Our take

We can’t say that Dykema’s findings are all that shocking. However, it’s interesting that the industry sees vehicle-to-grid systems as more of a priority than vehicle-to-vehicle technology. Perhaps that’s because vehicle-to-vehicle requires a lot of discussions between competing automakers to identify appropriate communications technology. Vehicle-to-grid — while still hugely complex — might be a bit more streamlined.

Did you see anything else surprising in these bullet points? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

And if you’re looking or a distraction from cubicle life — or if you need a little bedside reading — you can download the complete PDF of Dykema’s 2012 Automotive Institute Survey Results over here.

This article originally appeared on The Car Connection.

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