By Richard Jackson, Managing Director, Cornerstone Thailand (RLC Recruitment)
The biggest thing I see happening in Asia now is the coordinated push to ramp up the manufacturing of EV – electric-powered vehicles. This will have profound effects on recruitment, especially in China and India – the two most important markets for the future of the global auto industry.
A new sector is emerging with this shift towards electric-powered vehicles, as electronics manufacturers increasingly move into the automotive space. Dashboards are becoming more interactive with glass touchscreens. Big companies like Sony, LG, and Samsung are becoming auto suppliers.
Plus, semiconductor chips need to be more advanced for EVs. Because semiconductor chips are in short supply, and will be for the next 6-12 months, the auto manufacturing landscape is very dynamic right now. The entire sector is going through a period of major growing pains. Covid lockdowns in China has further disrupted supply chain issues, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent energy prices soaring.
Plug-in vehicle sales last December in China were up 125% compared to 2020, with EV-makers BYD and Tesla leading growth rates among major auto brands towards the end of the 2021. In 2021, EVs represented 15% of China’s domestic market share, up from 6.3% in 2020. China represents 53% of global EV market share, according to the CPCA (China Passenger Car Association).
Ford has plans to invest US$30 billion in EVs and battery technology during the next 8-9 years. Last year, the automaker said it would stop manufacturing and selling cars in India. But already Ford is changing its tune, considering plans to use one of its Indian facilities to build EVs for export, and possibly for sale in the domestic Indian market, citing the “global electric vehicle revolution”.
In Thailand, where I am based, Foxconn is partnering with PTT – the national oil company – to manufacture EVs. The companies plan to invest US$1-2 billion in a joint venture capable of rolling out 50,000 EVs a year, starting in 2024. They are aiming for annual production of 150,000 vehicles by 2030. Thailand is Southeast Asia’s leading auto manufacturer, and the government offers a variety of subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives for EV production.
This could be one of the first JV’s to unlock synergies between a traditional energy company and a technology leader. With the automotive supply chain reliant on sourcing rare materials such as lithium and cobalt, future OEM business models could trend towards vertical integration with mining and energy companies to control supply and costs.
What does this uptick in EV investment mean for recruiting professionals? I’m advising my automotive clients to start hiring the engineers & designers they’ll need for the future EV market right now. Because when the EV market really takes off, it’ll be too late.
So, ask your clients who are preparing to transition away from the internal combustion engine: How well prepared are you? Do you have the right people in place to manage this transition? How much time have you spent setting up your people to do this?
Because automakers will need to cultivate and recruit from a different talent group; the smart ones are doing it already. Now is the time to hire. Next year will be the time to train the next generation of EV professionals and get everyone up to speed before the EV tsunami overwhelms the traditional market.
Manufacturers should conduct a comprehensive, grassroots review of HR’s ability to get the right staff in place, now, for a market dominated by EVs – or they will have big problems sourcing the right talent later on.