The Italian automotive industry has been one of the driving forces (pun intended) of the national economy for the past three decades and it currently counts nearly 250 companies, employing over 30.000 people just in the sub-sector of engine components. These figures – as reported from the Center for Automotive and Mobility Innovation of the Ca’Foscari University of Venice – refer exclusively to traditional oil or diesel engines. The state of this industry may be about to change dramatically, however, as technology evolves and the whole idea of mobility shifts.
The future is coming
What will happen to the companies and the professionals in the Italian automotive industry, particularly those involved in the production of specific components that can only be used for thermic engines, as other forms of energy are explored and new models enter mass production? The vast majority of the companies operating within this industry (an estimated 93% according to the aforementioned report) will be able to reconvert workforce skills and resources and channel them towards new lines of production, to jump on the electric engines wagon. The remaining 7%, which includes companies specifically and uniquely engaged in the production of components that can only be used in traditional engines, will find it harder to adapt.
Innovation is the key
The Italian automotive industry, it has to be acknowledged, has withstood major technological revolutions in the past and survived admirably, thanks to its ability to acknowledge and embrace innovation. The more seamless the transition to new technologies within the same industry, after all, the lower the risk of increasing unemployment as a consequence of technological advancements. Investing in research, therefore, is crucial to any industry’s ability to stay relevant through the years. This is particularly true of the automotive industry, which is currently undergoing a substantial and fast-paced transformation. The number of electric cars sold in Europe has increased by nearly 50% from 2016 to 2017, while half the new non-electric cars sold last year where hybrid. The European regulations sanctioning the progressive dismissal of diesel engines undeniably had an impact on these trends, as public policies in individual member states were adjusted accordingly.
How is the Italian automotive industry coping with change?
Italian automotive companies have not been sitting on their hands in this respect: 18,5% have been involved in projects and training programs focusing on alternative energies, electric or hybrid engines and fuel cell powertrains. This does not mean, of course, that the full switch to electric vehicles is close to happening in Europe, not by a long stretch: steep prices and scarce infrastructure are still a major obstacle and, so far, the impact of brands such as Tesla on the European market has been negligible. It would be short-sighted, however to ignore that this is likely to be the future evolution of the automotive market. This second decade of the XXI century is, therefore, one of the pivotal moments in which whole industries and individual companies will determine their future relevance by deciding to stick to their old ways – and therefore become obsolete once the market changes – or explore, embrace and try to keep abreast of technological innovation.