Call them what you want: young companies, start-ups, disruptors, or – as we do in the automotive industry –“new entrants.” Regardless of how you refer to them, the concept behind these new mobility players is the same: they have a revolutionary idea about changing the way we think about personal mobility. Some of them want to build cars, others want to offer mobility services, and others want to occupy both spaces.
Regardless of their approach, all of them have a few things in common: their ideas are feasible, the thought behind them is mature, and it is all focused on a vision of personal mobility that is either connected, autonomous, or shared, and typically built on an electrified platform. As one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers also focused on these areas, Faurecia is navigating this new mobility game, assessing which of these new entrants might be the right players to bet on. After all, the stakes are high – and there’s no right answer.
Choosing the Right Business Partners
So how does a company like Faurecia navigate the road ahead? One of the most important criteria we use when considering whom we should work with is to first determine if we and the proposed partner have aligned visions. Do we share the same kinds of goals? Do we believe in similar solution concepts, etc.? That doesn’t mean we have the answers, but we at least have to be asking the same questions.
Importantly, finding a like-minded partner isn’t our only guiding principle. There are several other important factors that must meet a threshold. For example, does the organization have a viable financial structure and business plan? Do they really have the means to execute their ambition? What value would a relationship between our companies create, and is that value truly something we can’t create on our own?
Of course, there are already a myriad of startups that can align with these requirements, and we are excited about exploring opportunities and seeing how we can adjust and match our approaches with these new entrants.
The “Science” of Working with New Entrants
For us it is very clear: “new entrants” are reshaping the way we do business, starting with the pre-development phase. The process of designing and manufacturing a new technology in the automotive industry is a relatively long one when you compare it to other industries, like software or personal electronics. It simply takes longer to validate both the safety of a new technology and the manufacturing and integration processes. But working with new entrants, that process is changing, and we’re finding that new entrants are eager to bring us into new projects very early on– and to work with us closely to ensure that process moves much faster than it has in the past.
Faurecia wants to work with these new entrants to not only experiment with new business models, but to also find new ways to capture and generate new value. For example, years ago, integration was more about capturing value, but right now that idea is evolving, and integration is more about generating value – and generating value by first asking the right questions. We don’t necessarily always have the right answers, but we have the right people who are able to develop products and components without having detailed specifications; instead, they are asking the right questions based on limited input in order to create the specifications– and this is a major step for us.
The Art of Working with New Entrants
Some of our new customers expect us to be risk-takers, but to also educate them in order to manage the risk. They want to leverage our experience working with other carmakers to recognize what is possible or feasible, and what is not. And for us, the exciting part is the opportunity to do things that haven’t been done before. This can mean starting from scratch, building a team and rallying that team around having full responsibility for integration – all in 12 months!
How do you get this done? First, rethink the very definition of “team.” In this environment you need more of a gang than a team. That means the people involved sometimes don’t even know what the final result will look like, because it hasn’t been done before. They can imagine where they will end up, but how they will get there and what it will look like by that time is yet to be determined. That’s potentially a very vulnerable place because of the scrutiny that’s often a part of working in these new spaces. And so, like in a gang, everyone needs to be engaged, and no one can fail; otherwise, everything can collapse. But engagement usually comes easily to the team involved in these projects as they are all motivated by the same thing – to try to do things that haven’t been done before.
In the end, the right partnerships with these new entrants will allow us to continue exploring the possibilities ahead, but to do so in a way where there is both experience and proven technique, along with the energy and excitement of uncovering new value along the way. It truly is an exciting time to be in the personal mobility space, and we’re energized by the potential people and ideas that we’ll meet along the way.
Head of Media Relations