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Managing cultural change at traditional car companies is a challenge, the study found (Photo: Ford, Pivotal)

A new study concludes that relatively few automakers are implementing a consistent digitization strategy, though most agree on what needs to be done.

Berylls Strategy Advisors, which polled digital decision makers at six European automotive companies, found that carmakers had correctly identified three core characteristics of the digital revolution:

  • Increased competition from new players from other industries
  • The pervasiveness of digital change, which affects all business areas
  • An ever stronger focus on the customer, which requires better customer interfaces.
But the consultants concluded that premium carmakers as well as volume brands are still busy designing their digital strategies or are still in an orientation phase.

"Although the entire industry faces the same challenges, all car manufacturers aren't yet actively addressing the digital transformation with a tailor-made digitization strategy," Matthias Kempf, Berylls consultant and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

Some carmakers are much farther along in their digital transformation than  others, Berylls said, but this is unrelated to the brands' positioning as either a premium or a volume car manufacturer.

The strategy consultants said it is proving difficult for many carmakers to fundamentally change core processes. That's why management boards in many car companies have more recently formulated top-level, company-wide digitization strategies that coordinate efforts across all business areas.

Berylls noted that IT departments mostly are not seen as central agents of transformation. That's because they didn't take a leading role from the start, the consultants said.

As a result, new and often separate IT units deal with digital issues such as agile development methodologies and design thinking, while traditional IT operations manage legacy infrastructure.

It's early days in the digitization of the auto industry, Berylls said, and clear successes aren't yet visible.

Said Kempf: "You can see the first changes in top management's attitude as well as in company cultures, but the manufacturers have a long way to go before the cultural transformation also is successful.'

-By Arjen Bongard