Last week’s announcement by GM North America President Mark Reuss that the Cadillac ELR will be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant was news in and of itself. But what was perhaps more important is Reuss’ speech to the Society of Automotive Engineers Converge Conference about competition.
Competition in the auto sector is most commonly understood to exist between suppliers, automakers, brands, or models. But that’s not what Reuss was referring to. Instead, the engineer-turned-executive was calling attention to the recruiting rivalry between the auto and high-tech industries, with the latter being one of fast-moving growth and “glamour” sectors that seems to possess the ability to attract top engineers.
“We need to convince them that the automotive field is the most dynamic, exciting industry on earth. Because it is.” Reuss said. “Otherwise, they will look at other options, and that’s a list that is growing every year… They’ll go to Google, or Apple, or Space X, or elsewhere. ”
Reuss’ choice of competing recruiters is rather ironic given that Google possesses the world’s largest autonomous vehicles, with the search engine giant’s executives publicly stating that they see a day in which computer-operated cars with complex sensors will transport people while improving traffic and safety. Meanwhile, Space X is backed by Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors.
“We have to recruit these kids vigorously, and sell our industry like our livelihood depends on it. Because it does,” Reuss said.
Reuss also spoke about the need to improve the U.S. education system, specifically as it relates to science and math at primary and secondary education levels.
“For a country that has always placed such a high value on education, the U.S. is lagging frightfully behind, according to recent numbers,’ he said.
Out of 30 developed countries, the U.S. ranked 21st in student science literally and 25th in math literacy, Reuss pointed out.
“Clearly, we need to be better,” Reuss said. “This country simply can’t afford to fall any further behind the rest of the industrialized world in educating its young citizens. The global economic marketplace is far too competitive for that.”
The GM Authority Take
Reuss’ comments are spot on: engineering talent is being spread across various industries, some of which possess this attractive allure. Ultimately, GM’s ability to attract top engineers will reflect directly in the quality and competitiveness of its products. And the quality and quantity of U.S. engineers is a direct result of this country’s education system. And that’s how the cookie crumbles.