European automakers are racing to catch up to its rivals by wooing and hiring software experts from around the world. Specifically, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are stepping up their efforts to compete with technology firms such as Google in the race to create and develop a marketable self-driving car.
The need for software and technology experts is at an alltime high as there is an increasing number of vehicles that require software and lines of code to connect electric car motors to batteries, activate brakes when a radar system detects detects obstacles or simply communicate with smartphones.
And, without strengthening their expertise in these areas, European carmakers will have troubles in offering new tech features such as self-driving and ride-sharing capabilities.
The carmakers simply need to step up their game if they are going to compete new rivals such as Google and Uber.
Malcolm Earp, chief executive at Magma People (a specialist automotive recruiter) stated that, “What car companies are doing is hiring people generally from outside automotive. Some companies a few years ago didn’t have a connected car department. They all have that now.”
With respect to mapping and geography technology, BMW, Audi and Mercedes said last month that they would pay over $2.8 million to acquire Nokia’s maps businesses, beating out several other rivals. Location services are viewed as crucial to the future of self-driving vehicles.
In the fall of last year, Daimler bought two smartphone apps, mytaxi and RideScout, that will help the company provide services to those who do not own cars.
Despite the general desire to cut costs across the board and improve profit margins due to the economic trouble in China - the world’s largest car market - premium carmakers are actually adding staff in their digital departments. BMW’s workforce increased by 6.2% from a year ago and the company states it will continue to recruit employees to help “the advancement of new technologies, including the ever-increasing scale of digitalization.” Audi increased its workforce by 8% and it also plans to add several thousand more employees “primarily to support the development of pioneering technologies as well as for the expansion of [its] international sales.”
Andreas Tschiesner, head of McKinsey’s automotive practice in German, points out that, “The automotive industry is facing a big disruption through connectivity and connected driving technologies. These features will become an important source of differentiation.”