Courland Automotive Practice, co-founder with AM of the Rising Stars awards sponsored by Bank of Scotland Corporate, set out to discover the answers.
Its Future Leadership Survey questioned 50 European carmaker executives and revealed some unexpected opinions.
"Many people feel that the industry is risk adverse, backward looking and insular. They believe it has no time for entrepreneurs," says Chris Donkin, Courland managing partner, Europe.
"One respondent even said ‘there are few, if any, great leaders in our industry today’."
Only half of the 50 executives believe their company is selecting the right people for their ‘high potential programmes’, while 80% say their organization does not do enough to retain talented people.
The car industry is losing a huge number of its most talented staff to other industry, particularly in the fields of marketing, brand management and design.
Executives identified a skills shortfall in four areas:
#AM_ART_SPLIT# "Required skills for the future include intelligent, informed risk taking," says Donkin.
"The industry has spent billions on intricate CRM systems, none of which have made a difference between the manufacturer brand and the customers. True retailing skills are needed."
He says that many of the top executives have come from an engineering or finance background, not sales and marketing. This makes it difficult for managers from these disciplines to break through, so they end up going elsewhere – this is attributing to the lack of great leadership.
Another issue is a shortage of graduates entering car retail – and when they do, ensuring they do not suffer from bullying from staff that resent them joining the business. “There are plenty of tales of technicians ganging up on graduates until they leave,” adds Donkin.
"People also want to see more general leadership programmes, not just auto specific ones. And they want more secondments outside the automotive industry to gain new experiences and fresh views."
Asked to rate carmakers in terms of their own career destinations, executives identify Toyota, Porsche and BMW as the top three carmakers to work for, followed by VW Group, Honda and DaimlerChrysler.
Interestingly, Chinese carmakers are next, suggesting these companies will not struggle to find quality staff when they make their move into Europe.
Filling the bottom three places are GM, Fiat and Mitsubishi – all of which have suffered negative publicity over the past couple of years.
Toyota is by far the most popular manufacturer that executives would like to work for, chosen by 34%, compared to Porsche on 21% and BMW on 13%. It’s also the company identified by executives as the one with the best strategy, ahead of Audi, BMW, Porsche and Honda.
The Koreans – Kia and Hyundai - take up the next two spots. Fiat is rooted to the bottom, behind Mitsubishi, Chevrolet and GM.
Executives say current market conditions are challenging, with excess capacity, squeezed margins, high investment demands, poor dealer profits and environmental concerns the biggest issues.
They believe the industry is too cost driven and not sufficiently customer focused.
On a more optimistic note, 73% think the industry is prepared to tackle these challenges – although more than one-quarter don’t agree. And 87% claim their company has a coherent strategy to succeed.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# Our Partner
Courland Automotive Practice is the only resourcing firm dedicated to the global automotive industry. With unrivalled knowledge of all automotive sectors, Courland has a reputation for high quality executive search, interim management and consulting services.
The Rising Stars 2006 Judges
FINANCE Jon Olsen, BCA chief executive
Jon Olsen is chief executive of BCA, Europe’s biggest vehicle remarketing company with 40 centres, handling more than 1.3m vehicles per year.
Category sponsor: Capital Bank Motor
SALES Nigel Stead, Lloyds TSB Autolease
Managing director Nigel Stead set up Autolease in 2000 after Lloyds TSB bought Chartered Trust. He has also worked for Appleyard, Velo and JCT600.
Category sponsor: Rockingham
MARKETING Paul Wilcox, Nissan Europe
Wilcox, Nissan Europe vice president, strategy and marketing, has been with Nissan since 1992 and is a former Nissan GB marketing director.
Category sponsor: Google
HR Gill Banham, Jardine Motor Group
Group HR director at Jardine, Gill Banham oversees delivery of HR, management training and customer services.
Category sponsor: automotive skills
PR Graham Biggs, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
As corporate communications director, Biggs heads an international team at the Goodwood head office. Biggs directed the public launch of the Phantom.
Category sponsor: pf and pr
GENERAL MANAGEMENT Sir Peter Vardy
Sold his Reg Vardy business to Pendragon in February and is now considering his options in the motor retail business. Highly respected by his peers, Sir Peter was named AM personality of the year in 2003.
Category sponsor: PricewaterhouseCoopers