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Rethinking your value proposition for the auto industry

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Allan Steinmetz has more than 30 years' experience in marketing strategy, including 17 in Detroit working in automotive industry advertising. As the founder and CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting, a national marketing communications agency, he has kept tabs on the auto industry and sees major changes—both good and bad—in how U.S. carmakers and their suppliers will work together in the future.

BtoB: What's the biggest positive buzz in the automotive industry today for original equipment suppliers?

Steinmetz: One of the biggest opportunities happening in the automobile business is the mass market acceptance of hybrid cars and trucks. Car manufacturers' needs for hybrid technologies and production retooling will continue to grow because of rising fuel costs and consumer satisfaction with the hybrid concept. Heck, we even see Larry David driving a Toyota Prius on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It will be a mainstream product in the next five to 10 years.

BtoB: How should suppliers cash in on this opportunity?

Steinmetz: Suppliers need to rethink their value proposition as well as their product offerings to be able to provide services to carmakers that embrace hybrid fuel sources. They need to retool fast and identify the products and/or services the automakers need to bring the hybrid vision to the marketplace fast. Those who partner with them and improve speed and delivery will be the ones to cash in.

BtoB: In light of the upheaval and supply chain restructuring at Ford and General Motors, what challenges do marketers face in keeping or gaining business with them?

Steinmetz: Solvency is a key. They need to pay special attention to how they will get paid, the terms and conditions of contracts, bankruptcy threats, etc. They also face a change in what carmakers will demand from them, more of a solution-based relationship rather than one focused on churning out parts.

—Roger Slavens

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