Intelligent, connected, comfortable, safe, shared (and any other adjective that anyone may use to describe them): this will be - and in some ways already is - the car of the future. It will no longer be simply a vehicle for getting from A to B, with a few accessories for killing time when stuck in traffic, but an extension of our physical/digital ways of life. Its impact will be on a par with that inflicted by the smartphones we carry in our pockets or the computers we use every day for work. And all this will take into account the impact it has on the environment and compliance with increasingly strict CO2 emissions regulations. These challenges await the global automotive industry and are driving innovation within it. After all, manufacturing processes will have to lead the way if we are to come up with a truly advanced car . According to a study carried out by consulting firm Oliver Wyman (Future Automotive Industry Structure – Fast 2030), between now and 2030, seven trends will revolutionise the industry: connected vehicles, self-driving vehicles, electric vehicles, the spread of pay-per-use channels, human-machine-interface, changing client habits in terms of car driving (and ownership) and the digital industry. In response to all this, many car manufacturers have started at the bottom: in the factory.
In Italy, the sector and the entire supply chain constitute a highly innovative aggregate, one that is advancing at an increasing rate. The recent “Observatory on the Automotive Supply Chain” (a collaboration between the Chamber of Commerce in Turin, ANFIA (National Association of Automotive Industry) and CAMI (the Center for Automotive and Mobility Innovation at Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University)) has revealed the dimensions of the phenomenon: 2,190 companies, 156,000 employees, 46.5 billion euros in revenue (of which 40% is generated by companies based in Piedmont). Data regarding component exports really stands out, having increase by 6% since 2016, to a total of 21 billion euros, with a trade balance of 3.8 billion euros in just the first half of 2018 (orders having increased by 5.6%).
In Italy, the sector and the entire supply chain constitute a highly innovative aggregate, one that is advancing at an increasing rate. The latest generation know-how of companies like Magneti Marelli and Lamborghini makes them stand out.
Unsurprisingly, companies like Magneti Marelli set their sights beyond market value. They have the latest generation of know-how within their operations, an asset that Mike Manley, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new MD, sold to Japanese car parts maker Calsonic Kansei for 6.2 billion euros. In this particular instance the focus was on lighting systems and sensor manufacturing - two essential items for anyone developing self-driving cars and that will now go on to accelerate innovation in Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun is the second largest domestic manufacturer, producing eight million vehicles every year, behind China (on 25 million cars manufactured) and ahead of Germany (5.6 million). As for Italy, 41 manufacturing establishments account for a third of all cars in use in Europe and a fifth of those globally (despite a slight fall of 1.7% recorded in 2017).
The most notable of these car manufacturing centres are, without a doubt, those in the luxury sector: Ferrari, Dallara, Maserati, Lamborghini. And indeed, it is Lamborghini, bought by Audi in 1998, that is best aligning innovation, cars and the excellence of the Made in Italy brand. Even in its factories. Just to walk into the facilities at Sant’Agata Bolognese, opened in 2017, is to take a step forward in time in the management of innovative production processes: automated trolleys, robots, hand-held devices for recording the various processing stages and software (the MES) that monitors every tiny movement, which functions on a network of sensors and relays. “We have been helped by the systems around us. For us, setting up this facility has been symbolic: in Italy, too, to create systems, it’s possible to bring home very complex systems and make them better than all the others,” commented Chief Manufacturing Officer Ranieri Niccoli.
It is an innovative process that, since the government presented its Industria 4.0 project in 2016, has involved the entire Italian manufacturing system. The aim in 2017 was to raise additional private investments by 10 billion, to spend 11.3 billion in private money on research, development and innovation, and to secure over 2.6 billion euros for private early-stage investments - all tools necessary for restarting the nation’s industry and, specifically, the automotive industry which, to a larger extent than others, needs to accelerate if it is going to maintain its place at the wheel of innovation.