Mechanical Engineering

Volkswagen Engineer Predicts Automotive Industry Revolution

Written by Marco De Novellis | Mechanical Engineering | Thursday 11th February 2016 14:35:00 GMT

Harish Sivashanmugam thinks car-manufacturers that fail to adapt to tech change face extinction

Harish Sivashanmugam worked as a manufacturing engineer for Volkswagen

Harish Sivashanmugam worked as a manufacturing engineer for Volkswagen

The winds of technological change are set to sweep over the automotive industry.

Silicon Valley-based tech giants like Apple and Google are investing huge sums in the development of autonomous electric vehicles while Uber’s sharing platform is disrupting traditional car ownership patterns.

Former Volkswagen engineer Harish Sivashanmugam thinks that car-makers who fail to adapt to these new cutting-edge technologies will soon face extinction.

Harish hails from Chennai, the car manufacturing capital of India. Prior to joining troubled car-maker Volkswagen, Harish worked as a manufacturing engineer for Hyundai in South Korea developing several new models.

From Chennai to China, the ambitious engineer has since re-located to Hong Kong, eager to fast-track his career with an MBA at CUHK Business School.

What does the future hold for the automotive industry?

I see automobiles moving away from everything we associate them with right now to become mobile homes and work places.

Automakers have to either develop that ecosystem by themselves or partner with technology experts outside the mechanical world to create a mobile world.

What challenges does the industry face?

With the advent of 3D printing and software giants testing their hands at making cars, the industry is facing competition from all quarters of the business world.

The traditional players who fail to adapt to these disruptive innovations will cease to exist.

What advice do you have for engineers looking to work in the automotive industry?

Change is slow, compared to the IT industry for example, because of the huge capital and physical infrastructure involved.

[Engineers] should see the greater length of each project as an opportunity to be creative.

Can you tell us something about working at Volkswagen that most people wouldn’t know?

One unique feature about the company is the promotion system.

At manager level, candidates’ progress up the ladder is not only decided by the boss but also by the results of multiple screening tests by a separate committee.

What are your thoughts on Volkswagen’s recent emissions scandal?

Having seen first-hand how the company invests on quality and the checking parameters it instills in its system, I was shocked when I heard about the scandal.

I still don't see how the people involved thought they could get away with it.

Can the company recover its reputation?

It’s a big setback in terms of trust.

But historically, provided companies come clean on such issues and create better fail-safes for the future, consumers move have moved

Internal investigations are being carried out and I’m happy with the direction in which the company’s heading.

Why do you think so many engineers go on to take MBAs?

An MBA is about people management. Engineers aren’t trained in that.

On the other hand, after the IT revolution there are many engineers brimming with game-changing ideas.

Engineers need a place where they can incubate their plans while whetting their skills. An MBA seems to be the best option.

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