Jato Dynamics chief executive David Krajicek joined the automotive consultancy as COVID-19 lockdowns gripped the manufacturing and retail sectors.
AM caught up with him to reflect on his challenging start.
You joined Jato Dynamics as COVID-19 lockdown got into full swing in April last year. How has that affected your first 16 months as chief executive?
I’m based in Philadelphia. I’m hoping to relocate to our UK corporate head office. In other roles I’ve taken there have been large elements of distance and digital communication because I’ve been part of businesses which operate in multiple countries or regions. There’s no substitute for pressing the flesh, but (digital communication) has created a very level playing field. Prior to joining Jato I was at Gfk, running one of the two global businesses units across 80 countries and with 5,000 employees. There was a lot of scale, so digital communications were already important to me. In terms of my on-boarding, it has meant a lot of purposeful and planned engagements while trying to get to learn about each of the markets we cover.
What sort of scale does Jato have?
Our strongest area is in Europe. We’re also in the US and we have a presence in Detroit, China, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, the Middle East and Africa. We have scale. We have around 800 employees.
Your background is very much in big data. Why did Jato, and the automotive sector, hold appeal?
I think Jato’s in a really interesting position in that it has key data assets at a time in the market when there is a desire to move from data to solutions. That puts us in a position to deliver those solutions to clients.
What solutions are you looking at?
The core of the business is tracking and understanding car sales and features. Not just the volumes, but the value of features and options. We’ve also started to launch solutions at the vanguard of changes we see in the market. In CO2 taxation, we’ve created a service around WLTP to provide leasing companies with accurate quotations to clients relating to options and configuration. Also, we’re starting to look at related solutions that extend into the market as EVs ever increase their share alongside digital retail. A priority for me has been mapping out exactly where we take the business.
How do you gauge the pace and scale of the automotive sector’s recovery from COVID-19?
We’re starting to see the market rebound. Certainly, there are regional sensibilities which dictate how effectively you come out of COVID. Where there has been an upswing it tends to have been driven by EV. We’re talking about triple, not just double, digits. I can’t tell you if that’s down to people feeling more comfortable and confident about the technology, but both Government incentives and appetite have clearly been on the rise. For our part we enable an understanding and appreciation of where the market’s moving to. After that, as more vehicles come to market there will be an increasing appetite for OEMs to understand how their models are doing against key rivals. Tesla is not the only party in town anymore.
Do you think it is possible for the sector to accelerate EV sales enough to meet their CO2 emissions targets?
I just don’t know. Just as you see the real slingshot effect happening in the sales of these vehicles, and potential for change and greater penetration, so many other market forces have come into play. Could we achieve them? Yes. Could we fall short as we emerge from a period which made strategic planning very hard and there are suddenly various market pressures pulling in a variety of directions? Yes.
How is Jato keeping tabs on the impact of the global semiconductor shortage?
We’re actively looking at the semiconductor issue. What makes it complex is that it’s not just an automotive industry thing, it’s affecting other huge consumer electronics providers like Apple. Automotive is competing with other industries. It’s no surprise that you’re seeing residual values going up in the UK and US. I think this will continue as people pivot back to personal transport and supplies are squeezed.
Is Jato adapting to a new, omnichannel retail environment?
We’re working to support some of the digital car retail portals. We can facilitate the uploading of vehicle details straight to their platforms. We’re also assisting retailers in managing stock. The other thing we are looking at is how we can best support decisions in the multi-channel journey we’re starting to see happen. It’s not an either/or anymore, often it’s a matter of balancing (online and physical retail) to come to a purchase decision.
Are there any other areas you’re keen to focus on?
We’re keen to look at the rise of safety features such as ADAS. Not just what’s on the car but what risk mitigation it creates for the insurance industry, OEMs and consumers. I also want us to use crash data to gen-up on any reduced level of risk and provide accurate data. We also want to understand the data that exists in connected cars. It’s all too easy for businesses to re-trench, but that is not our mindset, we want to keep moving forwards.