Study concludes digital technologies require different management skills (Photo: Technical University Chemnitz)

Automotive companies need to change the makeup of their executive suites if they want to lead the trend toward electric powertrains, connected cars and autonomous driving, according to a new study.

The "Automotive Executive Study 2015" by headhunters Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed the profiles of top managers of global carmakers and suppliers and found that most had been promoted within their companies and lacked expertise gained in other industries.

Other findings:

  • The average automotive CEO is 60.6 years old
  • 75 pc of CEO positions are filled internally
  • 57 pc of automotive CEOs have worked only in the car industry
  • for suppliers, the percentage is even higher: 63 pc.
Russell Reynolds warned that this lack of cross fertilization from other industries is becoming a liability in a rapidly changing automotive world.

"The era of a homogeneous and closed management culture in the auto industry is over," said Walter Friederichs, who heads the automotive practice of Russell Reynolds. Since new automotive players such as Tesla, Apple and Google have increased the pressure, the so-called "car guys" who have been running the auto industry to date, "have to open up and accept new impulses and talent from outside," he added in a press release.

Friedrichs also said it is important for automotive companies to bring knowhow from other industries in-house. "Companies need to be culturally aligned so that acquisitions and cooperations with players from industries that have already completed their digital transformation will work," he said.

Russell Reynolds found that the lack of non-automotive expertise extended to all areas of management. For example, 72 of marketing bosses only had automotive experience. However, chief marketing officers tend to move around a lot within the auto industry, which partially compensates for their lack of outside experience. Among CMOs, 77 pc worked for the same company fewer than 10 years and two-thirds worked there less than five years.

Chief technology officers stayed with their companies the longest, the study found.