Interesting times

  • 23-Oct-2008 04:44 EDT
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Listening to the pundits and reading the editorials, we all know that there is no shortage of opinions as to what brought about the current economic climate. And, although somewhat fewer, there also is an abundance of opinions on what should be done to “fix” the situation.

I have no intention of weighing in on the rationale or the solution for the current economic challenges we face. What I do know is that the automobile industry is not immune from the current cycle. There is no denying that this economic downturn and concomitant business climate is the reality we face today. Global economic conditions are affecting all aspects of our industry—everything from the supply chain to the customer and from the design stage to the manufacturing plant. Additionally, there are technology challenges, new regulations, and revolutionary market expectations that compound the complexities of our industry.

History suggests, though, that after such economically challenging times a recovery will ensue. Once in the historical rearview mirror, the depth and duration of this downturn, along with the rate and magnitude of the recovery, will become the study of academics. More importantly, it will provide a greater knowledge base for predicting future economic cycles and how to better prepare for them.

History also teaches us that the marketplace and the competitive landscape at the end of a cycle can look very different than they did at the beginning of the cycle. Times such as these force individuals, businesses, and industries to evaluate processes with new perspectives and make decisions they may not have otherwise made. Some of these decisions can alter the landscape for the short term, while others can alter it for the long term.

But, history also provides a truism about our industry: in the face of adversity, there is reason for optimism. Are the current challenges facing the automobile industry larger or more complex than in the past? Perhaps, but that is okay. We will deal with these challenges, together, just as we have in the past.

And what’s more, we will look beyond them to the future to try to anticipate what is ahead. That is what our industry is about—finding solutions. Sometimes we have to tweak things a little to find the right answers, and sometimes we have to make major changes. But the end result is something innovative and exciting.

While SAE International cannot solve the global economy, we are and will remain your business partner for the journey, regardless of how challenging the times become. We have proven that for more than 100 years. Working in concert with you—automotive engineers and industry leaders—we’ve got the know-how, intuition, and incredible problem-solving talent to prepare for tomorrow.

As always, I welcome your feedback and constructive input to this topic and any other issues on your mind. Please feel free to e-mail me at focus@sae.org.

David L. Schutt, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, SAE International

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