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'Autonomous' cars pose issues for suppliers and automakers

By: Rhoda Miel

August 7, 2013

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. – There are long-term business issues facing the auto industry, such as how it will get to a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

And then there are really long-term issues.

Jacqui Dedo, chief strategy officer for Dana Holding Corp., wanted insiders attending the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City to consider what could happen if autonomous cars ever become a real force in the market.

Autonomous cars use a variety of sensors, radars, global positioning systems and computer technology to create a driverless vehicle. There are test vehicles already on the road in some regions.

Automakers and technology companies alike are researching autonomous cars, which bring up some potential dilemmas.

“Consider the battle to keep and find talent in the future, especially if you’re an automaker and you’re suddenly competing against a Google or a Sony that’s interested in getting to the auto market,” Dedo said during an Aug. 7 presentation.

Interior suppliers could be facing an even bigger shift away from their standard product line. Without the need for a driver’s seat, the entire vehicle interior could suddenly be designed to resemble an office or a living room.

“The transformation will be slow to come, but when it hits interior it will be massive,” she said. “It will be interesting to see if the current interior suppliers suddenly find themselves competing with Herman Miller, or even Ikea.”