Automotive Leaders’ Summit – October 2017

 In Callidus News

A Recruiter’s Perspective by Iain Cooper – Automotive Director at Callidus Consulting Ltd

Pictured: not the right dimensions.

A fascinating few days in México last week at the Automotive Leaders’ Summit organised by three6zero. Like all short trips across the time zones it was a bit of a whirlwind experience and it gave the body clock something to think about, but for most of the time, the adrenalin was pumping and the topics under debate were highly stimulating – giving the jet-lag a good kick into touch.

As any experienced attendee at conferences will know, what also brings them to life are the break-out session conversations, with both speakers and other delegates triggering new thoughts and discovering new opportunities to do great business – and be reminded that the auto sector is a big industry but very small world – there are always people you have met before or who know people you know!

And my trip to México City was no exception.

The production numbers and investment coming from OEMs and the subsequent supply chain businesses is significant and the challenges most organisations seem to face is that the regional infrastructure is doing its best to keep up – but the transportation and communication links between the major industrial areas aren’t great. This means that both parts supply and finished vehicle logistics, to and from the major ports and in-country, are a headache for all market participants.


Elections are looming in July next year and the hope is that this will bring the infrastructure investment required as the production numbers accelerate towards 4/5m units by 2020. These numbers represent their buoyant export market – to their (current) NAFTA partners and elsewhere as well as significant regional registrations (currently at c1.6m).

The other main topics of debate were naturally the tech and environmental agendas, NAFTA and once again at these conferences – the people agenda. I have been to several of these now and talent attraction and retention is always an issue for debate.

In our recruitment business we just work on senior hires/leadership level searches, but one of our areas of discussion with each candidate we interview at this level, is how they will approach the perpetual problem of talent attraction at the blue collar and entry level white collar levels. Regionally, the Agricultural and Petro-Chemical businesses are the main competition for staff in the production and supply chain facilities and it seems that at this level, the working population changes jobs pretty frequently if there is more cash in the weekly pay-cheque on offer elsewhere.

This is evidenced by the fact that in some facilities staff turnover at 75/80% is common, and re-hiring the same person some months later for more pay than when they left is also a regular occurrence.

In the management grades it seems that these organisations need to either attract or grow talent to sustain the pace of growth and development and lead the way through these particularly challenging times and circumstances. Business leaders I spoke with were pretty evenly split between home-grown and ex-pat, with the ex-pats (mainly European or from the US) focussing very much on succession planning locally, so that by the time they were back on a plane with their families they hoped to have grown local talent to assume the top jobs in this rapidly growing market.

So the essential work of talent attraction and growth is underway in some areas, but demand there is definitely out-stripping supply. An opportunity perhaps?

NAFTA of course was a topic, but didn’t dominate as I thought it would, after all México is a hugely resourceful and resilient nation – it has a network of 10 FTAs with 45 countries, 32 Reciprocal Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (RIPPAs) with 33 countries, 9 trade agreements (Economic Complementation and Partial Scope Agreements) within the framework of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) and it is a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – thanks to ProMéxico for those numbers.

Also, plants in the US that source significant parts volumes from México are going to lose considerable competitive advantage should punitive tariffs get slapped on any or all north-bound goods.

And finally, there were some insightful presentations and discussions about rapidly evolving technologies (connected and driverless vehicles) and global environmental agendas. This got me – all of us really, thinking about whether these are directly conflicting with a global OEMs drive for the production numbers? I don’t think I am clever enough to have an answer, thankfully I am getting to know enough people in the sector who are far more clever than I who are already providing the perspectives and concepts that will – soon enough, convert to the actions and answers to keeping a vibrant auto sector alive and well, while not over-abusing our planet for the generations to come.

So, a country and market full of challenges and contradictions but most of all, passion, determination and drive. And amongst the challenges, an agenda focussed on talent attraction and retention throughout the levels is needed everywhere to enable success – however you want to measure it.

Everywhere is our neighbour really and this particular neighbour can teach us all a thing or two about how to thrive and grow, sometimes because of, not just despite, the long line of perpetual bumps in the road – literally and figuratively.