German Automotive Supplier Mahle Gets Up-Close Look at Michigan’s Automotive and Mobility Leadership

Showcasing Michigan as a major global automotive and mobility epicenter, MICHauto, in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), led a one-day tour of the region in March for 12 executives from Mahle, a leading global auto components supplier.

The tour highlighted the region’s research and development facilities, OEMs, advanced manufacturers, leading suppliers, education institutions and next-generation mobility testing assets.

“Working closely through the Michigan Mobility Initiative, this was the first opportunity to really leverage the Planet M campaign to tell the state’s automotive and mobility leadership story to a visiting group of executives,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto.

“It was an opportunity for us to establish the perspective and potentially change perceptions that not only is Michigan an automotive capital because of its vast resources, testing sites and development work, but also it is a leader in connected and automated vehicle innovation,” he added.

The tour included welcome remarks by Gov. Rick Snyder and a tour of the University of Michigan Battery Labs, Toyota North America Technical Center, MCity, Lear Innovation Center in Detroit, TechStars Mobility and Shinola.

The tour was preceded by a presentation by John Maddox, CEO of the American Center for Mobility, and Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president of the MEDC’s Automotive Office, who spoke on Michigan’s e-mobility economy.

Following the tour, attendees enjoyed networking during a strolling reception at the Detroit Regional Chamber, featuring remarks by Mark de la Vergne, chief of mobility for the city of Detroit, and Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

View photos from the tour here.

MICHauto Student Forum Offers Glimpse of Exciting, In-Demand Careers

By Daniel A. Washington 

Helping to debunk common myths about the auto and mobility industry, MICHauto, in partnership with Ford Motor Co., Oakland University and Planet M, hosted its “Opportunity Auto.Mobility” student career forum on Feb. 16 that included a keynote and networking reception for more than 70 students. The event aims to better engage prospective talent with auto industry experts and employers.

“Auto manufacturers are looking for people who will bring a fresh perspective to the table,” said Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions (Ford Smart Mobility) for Ford, during her keynote address.

Robinson shared her journey leading up to her current role at Ford that included stops at Zipcar, one of the first ride-sharing companies in Detroit, and startup accelerator Techstars.

Robinson reiterated that in today’s industry, anyone with an interest can find a niche for their skills to thrive.

“Starting my career with Zipcar helped me understand the number of opportunities the auto industry can provide,” said Robinson.  “Who would have ever thought an anthropology major would work in the auto and mobility space?”

In addition, a panel of former Oakland students who currently work in the automotive industry discussed the possibilities of international travel, positive work culture and upward career mobility that their jobs offer.

“The autonomous tech space is exploding right now and is offering a number of opportunities to those in a number of fields to work and thrive in a creative and innovative way,” said Robinson.

The panel was moderated by MICHauto’s Rob Luce and included panelists: Mike Dudek, manager of commodity purchasing for Faurecia North America Inc.; Samantha Roberts, communications co-op for Yazaki North America Inc.; Elise Smith, manager of human resources and business partner for American Axle & Manufacturing Inc.; and Cassandra Traynor, manager of human resources for Brose North America Inc.

Following the presentations, students discussed employment opportunities with 16 auto-related companies at the networking reception. Companies in attendance represented a number of counties across the region showcasing the diversity and vibrancy of the industry.

Daniel A. Washington is a marketing and communications coordinator at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Mobility initiative aims to match state auto business, Silicon Valley

Crain’s Detroit Business 

By Dustin Walsh 

January 8, 2017

The state’s Planet M mobility initiative is aiming to play matchmaker between companies in Michigan and Silicon Valley.

Planet M, a branding partnership between the state and local economic development firms, businesses and colleges, plans to identify and solve the manufacturing, testing and customer gaps faced by Silicon Valley’s tech industry players focused on transportation and mobility.

Mass production, particularly of automobiles and automobile technology, has proven difficult for California companies. Apple Inc. pulled out of making its own car, and Tesla Inc. has repeatedly missed its delivery targets for its lower-cost Model 3. California needs Michigan’s expertise, but at the dawn of a new age of mobility and technology, the auto industry can also benefit from the fast-paced nature and vitality of Silicon Valley’s technology stronghold.

“This was dreamt up by talking to industry, here in Detroit and in California,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of trade and procurement programs at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The plan is his brainchild.

“We want to get Michigan companies involved in the valley and get those startups and tech companies there access to the end clients here,” Pawl said. “If we can connect them to Ford or Delphi or whomever, that means they’re more likely to invest and create jobs in Michigan.”

The MEDC and its partners will spend $250,000 in 2017 on sponsorships, creating “Shark Tank”-style events where California startups pitch Michigan’s auto players and, ultimately, set up a state economic development office in Silicon Valley. Additional funds will be spent on marketing the concept, Pawl said.

The state plans to become a sponsor of Santa Clara, Calif.-based processor maker Nvidia Corp.’s GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, Calif., in May. Planet M would be marketed and state economic agencies would be present, once a deal is reached, Pawl said. The conference attracts global scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs focused on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and driverless cars.

The goal of the initiative is to create or be involved in 12 events between Silicon Valley and Michigan.

Pawl said too often Michigan’s auto industry is used as the commercialization piece of the supply chain, losing out on the profitable aspects of innovation.

“We’ve spent years touting that we’re the auto capital, that we have 375 (research and development) centers,” Pawl said. “But what happens too often is a raw idea comes from, say, Japan, then to Silicon Valley for early-stage development, then to testing in Tennessee, then to Farmington Hills for validation. We’re the last stop on the innovation chain. We need to be stop number two. We need to be the innovation center.”

Farmington Hills-based Flextronics Automotive USA Inc., a subsidiary of Singapore technology conglomerate Flex Ltd., is already in discussions with the MEDC to get involved with the initiative. Flex is involved in 12 businesses, including a $2 billion automotive unit dedicated to autonomous, connected and electrification vehicle technology. Its U.S. headquarters is located in Silicon Valley. Flextronics employs 600 in Michigan and its customers include Ford, General Motors Co., Tata Technologies Inc., FCA US LLC, etc.

Chris Obey, president of Flextronics Automotive, speaking from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, said Flextronics is often overlooked in the automotive conversation because its U.S. headquarters is in Silicon Valley, where automakers look more to Delphi Automotive plc and Robert Bosch LLC that have more established relationships.

“We’re trying to get recognized as a tier-one supplier in the auto sector, so being on top of a contact initiative like this is important,” Obey said. “We’re looking to continue to invest in the Detroit area, so we want to help bring our knowledge base in Silicon Valley to Detroit as it becomes a larger and larger tech zone and an autonomous vehicle center.”

Flex, and Flextronics, is the sort of multifaceted business Detroit wants to attract. Flex’s business lines include manufacturing of 80 percent of the world’s wearable devices, including all of the activity trackers for San Francisco-based Fitbit Inc. It supplies customers in the connected home, energy, server, storage and mobile fields.

“Speed is currency and the world is moving faster and faster, and we’re hoping to show Michigan’s auto sector how important it is to innovate at high speed,” Obey said. “We’re working with several local companies on autonomous projects, and we’re going to focus more of that work in Michigan. This initiative should help others to do more of the same.”

Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MichAuto, an automotive advocacy group that works closely with the MEDC, said the auto companies are now technology companies, so aligning with the world’s greatest idea generators is important.

“A lot of these entrepreneurs have this perception that the traditional auto companies move slow,” Stevens said. “That’s just not true. With programs like this, we’re able to change this perception and show them how automotive is a real target market.”

Tim Yerdon, director of marketing and communications for Van Buren Township-based Visteon Corp. and chairman of MichAuto’s talent and retention committee, said getting products to market is now the auto industry’s greatest challenge.

“It’s all about how quickly we can get these new (automotive) functions to market,” Yerdon said. “Anything the state can do to expedite that is another feather in our cap and to the state and industry.”

Stevens said the Silicon Valley plan is the first in what he hopes will be a full expansion of the state’s economic prowess across the country.

“There’s real opportunity with the Valley, but not limited to just there,” Stevens said. “There’s opportunity in Austin or Boston or other parts of the world. It’s not just about accelerating something that’s happening today, but connecting those with these ideas all over the world with the consumers (Michigan auto companies) of that technology.”

View the original article here: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170108/NEWS/170109880/mobility-initiative-aims-to-match-state-auto-business-silicon-valley?X-IgnoreUserAgent=1

Planet M: Orbiting Michigan’s Mobility Future

Michigan gets aggressive in mobility space 

By Tom Walsh 

In a world gone manic over myriad mobility options, can the Motor City and its home state still be the epicenter of technology and innovation in cars, trucks and other transit modes? It is a big question that is critical to Michigan’s economic future.

To address it, there is an all-out offensive taking shape to make the case that the Detroit region has the right stuff — assets, talent, policies, resolve — to maintain, and even enhance, its status as a global mobility hub.

“No place else in the U.S. has anywhere near the testing and research assets we have,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Michigan led the nation in connected vehicle projects in 2015 with 49. California came in second with 35. Along with MICHauto and Michigan’s top research universities and state agencies, Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) launched the Michigan Mobility Initiative in 2015.

San Francisco-based Uber plans to open a research facility in metro Detroit to work with auto suppliers on autonomous car technology.

Michigan led the nation in connected vehicle projects in 2015 with 49. California came in second with 35. Along with MICHauto and Michigan’s top research universities and state agencies, Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) launched the Michigan Mobility Initiative in 2015.

“There’s a lot more work in front of us,” said BLM president Doug Rothwell. “But I feel as good about this as I do about anything right now.”

In mid-2016, Initiative partners launched “Planet M,” a new branding campaign announced by Gov. Rick Snyder at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference to tout the state’s engineering talent. Its tagline: “Michigan. Where big ideas in mobility are born.”

Planet M aims to dispel not only Detroit’s old “rust belt” image, but also the perception of Michigan’s own young people and parents, from a 2014 survey by Intellitrends, that the auto industry does not offer good growth prospects.

“That’s changing,” said Tim Yerdon, auto supplier Visteon’s global director of marketing and communications, who also chairs the MICHauto talent committee. “Right now, auto tech is cool again. In 2008-09, it wasn’t. People were running away. Now they’re running back to it.”

As part of the Planet M effort, MICHauto is commissioning another perception study of young people. Another plus for the state’s image could be the recent overwhelming passage in the Michigan Legislature of bills that allow for testing of driverless vehicles on roadways.

Planet M launched in mid-2016 as a new branding campaign to tout the state's engineering talent and mobility assets.

Planet M launched in mid-2016 as a new branding campaign to tout the state’s engineering talent and mobility assets.

“I’ve been contacted by three other states asking if I could send copies of our draft legislation,” said Kirk Steudle, head of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “We’re influencing the public policy debate across the country, giving an alternative to the California model, which is very overly regulated.”

However promising Michigan’s offensive on the mobility front may sound, new twists are likely looming over the horizon.

Just look back to eight years ago, amid a turbulent transition from one U.S. president to another. Michigan’s signature automotive industry was on the verge of collapse.

General Motors and Chrysler were on life support, sustained by federal cash infusions approved by outgoing President George W. Bush. Soon they would be pushed into Chapter 11 bankruptcies by President Obama. Things looked dire at the time.

What transpired instead was a surprisingly speedy revival. “Michigan-based auto companies went from zero to hero’ in record time,” noted Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah, who served under President Bush during the crisis.

While the comeback numbers were impressive, threats to the traditional auto industry business model and especially to Detroit’s place of prominence as a global hub of automotive innovation would soon be apparent. New innovators were sprouting far away from Michigan, including:

Tesla Motors produced its first low volume roadster in 2008, then showed its first prototype of an all-electric Model S in 2009. It opened a huge “gigafactory” to make lithium-ion batteries in Nevada earlier this year.

Google launched a self-driving car project in 2009 in California, later partnered quietly with Livonia-based Roush Enterprises to build prototype cars a few years later, and recently announced a partnership with FCA to develop self-driving minivans.

Uber Technologies, founded in 2009 as a ride-sharing app called UberCab, teamed up last year with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on self-driving car research. And now San Francisco based Uber is planning a research center in metro Detroit to work with auto suppliers on autonomous car technologies.

No telling what turns may lie ahead.

Uber is planning to open a research center in metro Detroit to develop autonomous car technologies

Uber is planning to open a research center in metro Detroit to develop autonomous car technologies.

In June, Detroit came up empty in the $40 million Smart City Challenge created by the Obama administration to link self-driving cars with sensors and other technologies in a city’s transportation network. Columbus, Ohio was the winner. Detroit wasn’t even among the seven finalists.

While Detroit may have valid reasons for being an “also-ran” in the Smart City Challenge, it goes to show that there are plenty of eager, aggressive cities that covet some of the leadership cachet that Detroit and Michigan have enjoyed as America’s automotive capital for so long.

Steudle put the mobility race this way: “While we’ve been moving quite aggressively in Michigan on these mobility issues, they’re moving quite aggressively in California, and in Florida and in Texas,” he said. “We really have to keep our foot on the gas.”

Tom Walsh is a former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan Cements Mobility Leadership with American Center for Mobility Groundbreaking

One of the 2016 “To-Do” list items from the Mackinac Policy Conference is to support the establishment of the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run. A special event, held on Monday, Nov. 21, makes achieving that goal, well on its way.

Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, John Maddox, president and CEO, American Center for Mobility, and Steve Arwood, CEO, MEDC, as well as some of the state’s top automotive technology leaders were on hand to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the $80-million project in Ypsilanti Township.

“This is a significant day for Michigan,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto at the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We put the world on wheels and now we are leading the world in bringing autonomous vehicles to the world.”

As one of the founding partners of the Michigan Mobility Initiative, MICHauto worked tirelessly to keep the Center’s opening a focus for the state.

Stevens, who sits on the Center’s Land Services Board, has been instrumental in helping establish the legal and financial operating parameters for the testing site.

The Center, located on 335 acres at the existing Willow Run site, is designed to test new and emerging technologies and will play an integral role in positioning Michigan to lead in the race for the connected and autonomous vehicle development.

The Center will be available for use by private industry, government, academia, among others and will serve as a technology hub, allowing companies to lease office space, garages and other amenities.

Construction is scheduled to begin next spring with the Center being open for business by December 2017.

More information on the American Center for Mobility can be found at www.acmwillowrun.org. To learn more about the future of mobility and its importance to Michigan’s ongoing economic resurgence, visit www.planetm.com.