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How will digitalization affect employment in the auto industry?

Digitalization will provide more people with opportunities to work in the industry and more convenience for car owners and buyers

The automotive industry has been contributing to the global economy for many years, and this is largely in part due to the employees working in it. From research and development to manufacturing and sales, workers in the industry have continued to make significant advances toward creating the safest, most comfortable, and most reliable cars we have ever had. However, similar to just about every other field, digitalization is impacting employment in the auto industry and may continue to do so in the following ways.

Expertise Needed

Vehicles are made up of thousands of parts, and today’s mechanics are quite well-versed in them. However, as digitalization expands, more technological skills will be required. Fixing or replacing a part in a vehicle may no longer just be purchasing one from a distributor and switching it out; instead, certain components must be installed plus re-programmed with codes.

Other technologies such as 3D printing could potentially reduce the number of parts in cars as well as produce them faster, so employees who have these types of tech skills may be in high demand. In addition, cars are becoming more connected than ever, and professionals with expertise in information and communications technology (ICT) are expected to gain a larger role in the auto industry.

Overall, the future makeup of employees in the auto industry will likely have more software engineers and computer specialists compared to traditional assembly line workers and mechanics.

Changes for Sales and Tech Employees

Many automakers are placing some level of emphasis on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) sales, so salespeople may eventually be pushed into these worlds instead of the traditional on-site, in-person sales model. Selling cars to customers using digital means such as VR, AR, email, Zoom/FaceTime, and live chats is likely to increase as car buyers shift away from wanting to step foot into a dealership.

Digitalization could also affect technicians as conducting over-the-air (OTA) diagnostics and repairs become a more prominent concept. Remote maintenance, repairs, and updates are still in their early days for most automakers except Tesla, but there may come a day when a lot of car owners are able to save a trip to the service lane and instead have a technician “push” an update or repair to their cars.

A More Diverse Workforce

In the past, the auto industry was mainly run by men, but many women have reached top roles in it throughout the past decade. Seeing as a lot of women have left behind various stereotypes and emerged as leaders in their fields, there are now many women who are up-to-date on the latest digital trends and will be able to find success in the auto industry. Female software engineers, data analysts, digital marketing gurus, coders, and sales reps are just some examples of employees who will increasingly be in demand, and women will no longer be underutilized talent.

A major reason men and women both consistently report not working in the auto industry is the fact that there is a work/life balance disconnect and an automotive job would not provide them with the flexibility they need. Digitalization is changing this, as many employees have found ample success working from home and on scattered hours. In addition, using digital resources to make sales and conduct transactions (i.e., e-signing documents) offers more efficiency and can be done from anywhere. Salespeople may no longer need to be at the dealership for 12 hours a day and can instead use digital means to sell vehicles, and those in the HR department may be able to make more flexible hours and do a lot of work on their own time at their homes.

Ultimately, digitalization will provide more people with opportunities to work in the industry and more convenience for car owners and buyers. On the contrary, some employees’ jobs are likely to become obsolete as processes become more automated, which could either lead to job losses or the need to train employees on the latest technological advances.

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Kimberly Hurley
Kimberly Hurley
Kimberly Hurley is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for CBT News, with over a decade of experience specializing in automotive, healthcare, and manufacturing. She enjoys working with industry professionals throughout the world to develop engaging, and accurate content.

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