Opinion: Driving next-generation mobility in Michigan

March 11, 2020

The Detroit News

Glenn Stevens

The automotive industry, our state’s signature industry, is at an inflection point. The design, engineering and advanced manufacturing of next-generation mobility solutions represent an enormous opportunity for Michigan, while also posing an increasing economic threat if we do not act and lead.

The economic contribution of Michigan’s current automotive industry is $225 billion annually to the state and nearly $3.5 trillion globally. Future projections track the mobility industry in a shared use economy at upwards of $7 trillion annually.

I am grateful to our state leadership for recognizing and working with MICHauto on promoting, retaining and growing our signature industry. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent executive actions — creating an Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, a chief mobility officer role, and the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification — are significant steps to ensure Michigan has the focus, resources, and most importantly, a roadmap to solidify Michigan as a global mobility leader.

For over 120 years the automotive industry has been woven into the very fabric of our culture and communities. Michigan has been at the forefront of innovation, engineering and manufacturing to bring products to life, taking us from the first industrial revolution into the age of mass-produced vehicles and rise of suburbanization.

In today’s Digital Age, technological advancements move at an incredible pace.

Vehicles are the most complex consumer products on the face of the earth. They operate at the core of the connected world and the internet of things, and we depend on them for safe, reliable, and sustainable transportation.

Automakers and their suppliers are keeping pace with advanced technology while simultaneously honoring their rich automotive heritage. Today’s vehicles are connected, electrified, moving toward automation and operating in a shared-use economy. And while the internal combustion engine is not disappearing anytime soon, there is no question that the demand for electric vehicles is increasing and that mass adoption will continue to progress.

Comparatively, there can be less than 20 components in an EV propulsion system and more than 1,000 in an internal combustion engine. This equates to new technologies, companies infrastructure and a potentially significant impact on Michigan’s traditional supplier base, which spreads across the communities of our state.

Our unique and powerful automotive ecosystem continues to flourish. Michigan continues to lead the nation in the number of engineers, has more than 21 OEMs with a presence or global headquarters here, and it is home to 96 of the top 100 suppliers to North America. Among all of this brainpower, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office chose to locate their first satellite office here because of the volume of innovation.

However, there is still a great deal of work to be done and diversification is key.

One of the greatest platforms we have for diversification stems from our expertise in advanced manufacturing and modernization. Today’s industry is being centered on artificial intelligence, machine learning, additive manufacturing and cybersecurity.

Michigan needs to develop new mobility technology and solutions, while simultaneously growing the economy with the traditional automotive industry. To do that we need to be forward-thinking in the following areas:

Diverse and Highly Skilled Talent

• Our citizens will need digital and technological skills to thrive in this new environment.

• Ensuring that we have the correct education and training programs in place is essential.

• STEM education in K-12, higher education programs, and reskilling and training opportunities need to provide all citizens with the capacity to meet the job requirements of today and in the future. Furthermore, Michigan must be a welcoming and attractive state for immigrant talent.

Industry 4.0

Our ability to adapt and utilize technology in our manufacturing centers and communities will allow us to compete globally. 3-D printing, augmented reality and advanced robotics mandate that our traditional automotive industry compete in a different way. We “make” things in Michigan and ensuring that our shop floors are also the factories of the future is vitally important.

Solving Global Issues

Hyper-urbanization, climate change, scarcity of resources and demographic shifts require that our traditional vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers develop transportation solutions that solve global issues, not contribute to them.

Our companies and communities must be prepared, and Michigan’s OEMs have seized this opportunity. General Motors, our states’ largest industry employer, has focused its entire strategy and execution on a world where we have “zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.”

Whitmer’s executive actions pick up where Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration left off, setting a course for Michigan to evolve and lead. We are supportive and encouraged that her administration is seeking to make sure that industry, education and government intersect so that sound policy, intelligent infrastructure and most importantly essential skills and training are in place. The office and council will play critical roles to chart a course for Michigan’s signature industry and the mobility future.

When a society, community, individual or in this case, an industry and state, face an inflection point there are two options. We either chart a course for upward trajectory for our economy and embrace and utilize change or we fall victim to it, as we have in the past due to forces that we were not prepared for. We have continuously brought products and technology to life in this state and must continue to do so.

Gov. Whitmer’s signings at the MICHauto Summit on Feb. 25 in Detroit were indeed significant and they are impactful actions that further differentiate and enable Michigan to lead in the next generation frontier of mobility.

View the original article here.

MICHauto and Governor Whitmer Align to Ensure Michigan’s Mobility Future

“Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and MICHauto are aligned on a vision to shape Michigan’s mobility future. MICHauto is honored to be a key partner to Gov. Whitmer’s administration in executing the executive actions taken today. I look forward to ongoing collaboration with the governor, The Michigan Council for Future Mobility and Electrification, the Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus, and industry stakeholders to ensure Michigan leads the mobility revolution.”

– Glenn Stevens Jr., Executive Director, MICHauto; Vice President, Automotive and Mobility Initiatives, Detroit Regional Chamber

Watch: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer At The 2020 MICHauto Summit

Opinion: Funding Going PRO vital to auto industry present and future

February 24, 2020

Crain’s Detroit Business

By: Glenn Stevens

Ask anyone in business and they will tell you the same thing — our state needs workers with the skills to fill the thousands of job openings at companies of all sizes, in all industries. Bridging this talent gap is vital to Michigan’s economic future, given the projected workforce gap of more than 500,000 by 2026.

Ask any elected official and they will respond similarly, regardless of party. The question now is, how do we fill this need for the state’s signature automotive industry? The answer is by training potential employees with new technologies while advancing the skills required to fill open positions.

Start by continuing what works. The Going PRO in Michigan program is making strides to close the talent gap through training in classrooms and on the job, or via apprenticeship programs. Last year, funding through the program allowed 849 employers to train 5,909 new hires and 18,900 current employees. And 97 percent of the companies awarded had fewer than 500 employees and 70 percent had fewer than 100. We often read about the large companies that are vital to the automotive industry, but thousands of smaller firms make up the backbone of our economy.

While the Going PRO Talent Fund has helped further train thousands of workers so far, with each passing quarter, even more are losing out on the opportunity to adapt to industry advancements. And jobs that need to be filled are staying open while appropriations are being held up.

When you consider Going PRO’s success, number of applicants and return on investment, it clearly warrants a $50 million state appropriation to continue benefiting Michigan companies and workers. And with more than 1,200 applications for 2020 from employers, 43,000 workers stand to benefit from increased training and potential salary gains.

This is essential for where the automotive industry is headed. The “Detroit 3” continue to make major investments to protect Michigan’s automotive future. The FCA Mack Avenue Plant, General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck EV Plant and Ford Motor Co.’s commitment to the Michigan Central Station corridor are testaments to that. Suppliers are keeping pace as well. Paslin is expanding to support Rivian in a project expected to generate $45 million in private investment and create 200 new jobs. Going PRO supports these companies and their peers around our state.

Equally, we need Michigan to invest in the workforce to ensure thousands of employees have an opportunity to receive training to keep up with the changing industry landscape.
While the average hourly wage of a trainee is $16.95, the six-month post-training wage averages $26.60. This significant increase allows Michiganders to earn family-sustaining wages and employers to invest in their current workforce to meet talent demands.

State Sen. Ken Horn introduced a bill last month that would allocate $36.5 million to the Going PRO Talent Fund, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer added it back into her budget as a line item with $27.9 million in funding. There are options on the table, and we need our state policymakers to set aside partisan politics to fund the program and allow companies to get to work on retraining their workforce.

Economic growth is ultimately driven by a skilled, motivated and supported workforce. Let’s continue to invest in our people.

Glenn Stevens Jr. is the executive director of MICHauto and the vice president of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

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Opinion: Metro Detroit a Hotbed for Small Businesses

November 17, 2019

The Detroit News

Mark S. Lee

According to the 2012 U.S. Census data, the City of Detroit is home to more than 62,000 small businesses. Regionwide, it seems there’s a new business opening every time you turn around, and this trend is gaining momentum.

As I’ve considered the entrepreneurial and business ecosystem here, a couple of questions emerge:

Is Metro Detroit a good place to relocate a business? If so, what’s the “state of this region” when it comes to attracting newcomers looking to grow their businesses?

“It was not that long ago,” says Glenn Stevens, executive director, MICHauto, Detroit Regional Chamber, “that Detroit and Michigan had a global perception (and, in many cases, a reality) that we were a city, region and state that was the “rust belt” and would never revive.”

But over time, the perception continues to evolve and change.

“Today’s reality could not be farther from that perception,” Stevens continues. “While we have our challenges, there is a collective focus that is synergized to address what we need to do to continue to make this a place where companies and people with ideas from around the world can come to find opportunity, live, work and play.”

Stevens also points out “the business climate, cost of living, quality of life, access to talent and the unique and special combination of culture and spirit of our people make the region and state more than a potential destination for startups and businesses to locate here.”

Read the full article here 

Motor City Stakes Claim To Be Capital of Autos’ Future

November 7, 2019

The Detroit News

Kalea Hall

Detroit — The Motor City’s historic strength in manufacturing is enabling it to become the center for the future of the automotive industry.

Just a few years ago, conventional thinking assumed Silicon Valley’s tech heavyweights held the upper hand in producing the next generation of vehicles. That was before the extensive problems experienced by electric-vehicle start-up Tesla Inc. in building EVs at its California plant, among other challenges to the tech-will-prevail thesis.

“There was this thinking that Silicon Valley was going to crush Detroit, that they knew how to do it better,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Cox Automotive. “Well, reality has set in” that Detroit knows is how to make cars. “Yes, they can be autonomous, they can be EVs. But … you still have to know how to build a car.”

Detroit does. And recent investments by all three Detroit automakers as well as a Silicon Valley self-driving company are helping the city build on its legacy of manufacturing know-how to stake the claim as the nation’s center for self-driving and electric vehicles.

“It’s almost like we are a Silicon Valley again, because if you look back over a century…we were a hub for natural resources, innovation and people — and we are seeing that again,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and the Detroit Regional Chamber’s vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives.

The city’s reinvention as a hub of innovation is visible in Corktown, where Dearborn-based Ford is building a campus that will be an electric and autonomous technology center for the automaker and its partners. The technology will take shape at Michigan Central Depot, a towering symbol of Detroit’s decline as it sat vacant for 30 years. Ford plans to reinvigorate it to house 2,500 employees and create space for partners to have another 2,500 employees to develop and test new mobility technologies. The station’s transformation, which will include retail and hospitality businesses, will be complete by the end of 2022.

“Ford believes in the city of Detroit and its peoples’ future as a global hub for modern mobility,” Ford’s Corktown spokeswoman Christina Twelftree said. “Michigan is the automotive R&D capital of the world and Detroit is uniquely positioned to leapfrog other urban cores to explore the role transportation can play in revitalizing cities.”

Already there’s a staff of 250 Ford Autonomous Vehicle LLC employees working in the neighborhood.A fleet of self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids being tested with partner Argo AI is a common sight in the Motor City.

The global automotive industry has multiple cities wanting to stake the claim that they are the center for future automotive technologies. Because Detroit is “working from a position of history and a position of strength with regards to the ecosystem, it’s a great place for the center to develop,” Stevens said.

“We are very quickly becoming not only an automotive center, but an absolute global leader for the development of this next-generation mobility technology.”

GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant is yet another example of the city capitalizing on what it knows how to do best: build vehicles.

Read the full article here

MICHauto on the Paul W. Smith Show

August 7, 2019


MICHauto Executive Director Glenn Stevens and Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) joined WJR’s Paul W. Smith from CAR Management Briefing Seminars at the Grand Traverse Resort to discuss MICHauto and the Michigan Auto Caucus’ focus to protect and grow the automotive and mobility industry.

Listen to their conversation:










MICHauto Investors Gather in Lansing for Annual Meetings with Legislators

“Meeting with legislators is crucial to ensuring that policymakers understand the industry’s issues, opportunities, and our collective economic impact,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

On Tuesday, April 16, the Chamber’s MICHauto initiative gathered executives from 25 automotive companies to meet with 25 legislators in Lansing for the 2019 Automobility Day at the Capitol. Automotive experts and executives discussed the industry’s impact with legislators including MICHauto’s 2019 policy priorities. This year’s priorities focus on the further development of talent, technology, and trade as the key drivers of progress.

“The MICHauto policy priorities were created with the automotive industry and represent their thoughts on what we need to focus on to ensure future economic success,” Stevens said.

MICHauto values the opportunity to foster collaboration between industry leaders and the state government, which will ultimately strengthen Michigan’s economy and reinforce its standing as the automotive capital of the world. Many individuals contribute to this shared effort, and each year MICHauto recognizes one of them for their commitment to supporting the automotive and mobility industry in Michigan.

This year, MICHauto named Rep. Rebekah Warren Legislator of the Year for her dedication to driving next-generation vehicle R&D, her sponsorship and creation of the framework to allow the establishment of the American Center for Mobility, and her appointment on the Michigan Council on Future Mobility.

The sixth annual Automobility Day at the Capitol highlighted how a strong partnership with Michigan’s political leadership will continue to promote a promising future for the state’s automotive and mobility industry.


Rolled out new car presentation type motor show

January 17, 2019

Wedge Infinity

Teru Nakanishi

This article has been translated from Japanese.

The North American International Auto Show, which is held in January every year in the US Detroit known as “Motor City”, opened on the 14th and was released to reporters. Approximately 5000 media from all over the world gathered and about 750 vehicles including the latest models were exhibited by automobile manufacturers in the United States, Europe, China, Korea, Japan, India and others.

In the automobile show other than Detroit, the Shanghai show backed by the Chinese market attracted attention, and the world’s largest technology trade fair (CES) held in Las Vegas on the 8th was attracted to automatic driving and “flying car” etc. Many of the latest technologies of the next generation will be exhibited and attracted interest from concerned parties. Since the exhibition of traditional car makers was the center focusing on the North American auto show that opens shortly after that, the impact was weak and the shadow became thin compared to CES.

For this reason, officials of the North American auto show with a feeling of crisis will decide to change the opening time from winter to June from 2020, aiming to restore the position as a car show. From next year I will increase the number of outdoor exhibitions etc and I will call on BMW etc. to resume exhibition and I would like to take in new technologies such as automatic driving and make it a new type of show.

Mr. Glenn Stevens, Executive Vice President of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Vice Chairman of the Automated Driving Council, said, “We have to turn it into an auto show to prepare for a new era of the automobile industry such as automatic driving and mobility services etc. From next year it will be summer So you can also add events of famous Detroit music and fireworks.

We need a new concept not only for automobile manufacturers, but also for people involved in automatic operation, start-up and movement, “the era when only leading traditional major automakers lead the North American auto show It is not pointed out that.

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GM’s job cuts mean new kind of worker needed

November 6, 2018

Detroit Free Press

By: Jamie L. LaReau

General Motors is a technology company that makes cars and the skills its employees had yesterday are continuously becoming outdated.

Experts say that is the underlying message of GM CEO Mary Barra’s move on Oct. 31 to offer voluntary buyouts to GM’s North American salaried workers with 12 or more years of experience with the company.

On the surface, it’s typical cost-cutting ahead of a potential dip in new-car sales and rising raw material costs. But look closer.

“GM is signaling a change in vehicle technology. If they go into electric more rapidly, then they do not need the same engineers they have now,” said Maryann Keller, principal of Maryann Keller & Associates in the New York area. “The advent of electric vehicles has profound implications for employment in the auto industry’s competition and the skill sets needed to compete.”

Consider that Barra hails from a human resources background, so targeting employees with long seniority and high pay grades is strategic when a company is moving toward the development of more electric cars, fuel cells and autonomous vehicles, experts say. It means redeploying the workforce and freeing up significant capital, said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University.

“Technology has changed so fast and is changing so fast that if you’ve been out of school 10 or 20 years, you’re not at the leading edge anymore,” said Masters. “This will give GM an opportunity to create a greenfield of sorts, to create a new company within a company.”

The New Worker

Besides wanting to be futuristic, GM’s cost cutting is also a necessity.

Its current cost structure and product mix make it more vulnerable to a sales downturn than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, said market economist Jon Gabrielsen, an adviser to the auto industry. He said GM can afford to lose only a quarter of its current car sales in North America before going in the red.

GM won’t say which jobs or which areas of the business it looks to trim beyond saying the offers are voluntary — for now — and will go to employees with 12-plus years experience.

But GM has been adding a younger workforce with technology-heavy skills in recent years. In fact, only about 17,700 of GM’s 50,000 salaried workers in North America have the 12-plus years seniority to qualify for a buyout offer. Experts say that indicates the bulk of GM’s workers are new to the company, possibly with a focus beyond traditional vehicle design and engineering.

A GM spokesman confirmed that “about 40 percent” of its U.S. workforce has been with the company five years or less.

The company’s changing focus opens up opportunities to millennials, those people ages 22 to 37 who might change their perception of GM from that of a stodgy carmaker bankrupt a few years ago to a technology company that offers some advantages over that of a start-up, Wayne State’s Masters said.

But for older workers already in the auto industry, it means they must up their game and continuous training is a requisite.

“I don’t know if they’re extinct or need a new degree, but they need to be engaged in continued learning and advancement,” said Masters. “They need to be agile. Organizations do not guarantee lifetime employment anymore. This is a statement that the world is changing.”

A New Company

The “new” GM will want workers who are highly creative and capable of working autonomously as well as collaboratively, Masters said. The future employee will take initiative and have a strong technology background, good communication skills and project-management capability. GM might do more contract hiring to keep fixed costs low and GM’s agility high, he said.

“China is taking the lead in electric vehicles. Ford has an aggressive plan to redeploy its investments along those lines, too,” Masters said. “So GM has to have the flexibility to free up staff and have the capital available to invest in this technology.”

GM has been on an aggressive hiring spree in part because it wants to be first to deploy a fleet of self-driving electric cars in a city next year. In fact, the same day GM said it would trim its workforce, a GM spokesman told the Free Press GM will continue to hire in certain areas it is expanding, namely engineering and technology for its work on self-driving and electric cars.

Two years ago, GM bought its self-driving vehicle arm, GM Cruise. GM Cruise employed 40 people at that time. Today it employs about 800, said GM President Dan Ammann.

GM’s hiring reflects a statewide trend. The skills needed for future automotive jobs in Michigan are shifting as the auto industry here transitions to a future of mobility beyond tradition personal car ownership, said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives for Detroit Regional Chamber.

“You have the convergence of the auto and the tech industry going on,” said Stevens. “The different modes of transportation and the development of electrification are increasing, so we have to make sure we’re leading for the next generation of mobility. The companies here have to make sure they do the same thing.”

Deeper Cuts

GM said it does not have a target for how many salaried workers it wants to take the offers. But if it doesn’t remove enough costs from that and other efforts, such as halting renovation work at two Michigan facilities, it will consider involuntary job cuts after Jan. 1.

For that reason, Keller said she expects the voluntary buyouts will get a higher than usual take rate.

“Knowing that there will be cuts no matter, and the labor market is strong, should increase the take rate,” said Keller. “I don’t recall what it was in the past, but it was low when jobs were scarce.”

Gabrielsen believes only 10 to 20 percent will take the offers and GM will be forced to cut jobs to support earnings amid plateauing new-car sales and rising commodities costs. In total, he estimated about 7,000 salaried GM employees in metro Detroit will be gone through the voluntary or involuntary termination.

“Typically, in downturns, they start off hoping they won’t have to cut too bad,” said Gabrielsen. “But as things cycle down in the industry, you have to do another tranche and another tranche and another.”

GM’s Troubles

Recently at CityLab 2018 in Detroit, Mary Barra was asked if GM is a technology company, not just a car company. Her unwavering reply was: “That is my goal.”

So as Barra has worked to pour resources into developing AV/EV technology including forming investment partnerships with Japan’s SoftBank and Honda earlier this year, it has also been cutting costs for several years in other areas. GM said it would make $6.5 billion in reductions for 2018, but the voluntary job cuts will not benefit GM until 2019.

Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, GM has added about 28,000 employees in North America, about half of whom are hourly, said Gabrielsen. But GM has not gained North American market share.

Gabrielsen, who pulls his data from GM’s SEC filings, said in 2009 the automaker had a 20 percent market share in North America selling 2.5 million vehicles. Each year since, GM’s market share has slid. Last year, GM sold 3.6 million vehicles, but its market share was 16.6 percent, he said.

“They can’t support as much fixed cost with the smaller market share,” Gabrielsen said. “This is an economy-of-scale business. When you get above a certain sales volume you can print money. When it drops, you bleed money.”

He said GM is precariously vulnerable to a sales downturn.

“GM can afford to lose 25 percent of its unit sales in North America before it goes into the red. That’s if they slash heads on the way down,” Gabrielsen said. “Chrysler and Ford can afford to lose 50 percent of their sales in North America before they’re in the red.”

But GM is not alone in wanting a leaner company. Ford also is working to reduce its salaried workforce. Ford has not provided specifics on how many jobs will be cut or over what time frame in its $11-billion “fitness” plan.

Wall Street Woes

While economists agree that a storm of economic headwinds is swirling around the auto industry, threatening profitability, GM faces one more challenge: Wall Street.

Since taking the helm in January 2014, Barra has yet to satisfy investors. Right before reporting third-quarter results on Oct. 31, GM shares traded about 6 percent below the $33 per share price at which they launched in 2010 in a post-bankruptcy initial public offering, according to Reuters. GM’s stock price hit an all-time high of $46.48 on Oct. 24, 2017, but had declined to $36.25 as of Nov. 5.

Last month, Reuters reported it contacted several shareholders who said GM could face a third major action by activist shareholders in less than four years if the share price does not improve.

GM’s voluntary buyout program and halts to renovations will appease Wall Street for some time, analysts said.

“I wouldn’t want to be any of the auto company CEOs right now,” said Gabrielsen. “None of them want to slash anybody, so if they’re doing it at all it’s because of Wall Street pressure.”

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