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Office Hours: Frankfurt and Beyond – the Present and Future of the Auto Industry

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One thing that Joe and I think is really an untapped resource at Framework is the professional background of our Framework members. We are trying to bring this experience into the forefront, both with some technological changes we’re going to be rolling out soon and with events like this Office Hour session, which was held on October 28, 2017.

The whole idea behind Framework is to create a community of knowledgeable, well-trained investors who can assess investment opportunities while drawing from the experience of the rest of the community.

One of Framework’s members, Robert Himelfarb, is a Framework member who has deep experience in the auto industry.

Robert took a BS in engineering from Boston University and an MBA from the University of Detroit. He spent 37 years working for Ford – about half of which was spent in Europe, South America, and the Far East. He started out his career as a product design engineer and worked his way up to become Ford’s Product Development Director for the Asia-Pacific region. Robert now runs a private investment partnership, but still keeps in contact with his former colleagues and industry.

Robert attended the Frankfurt Auto Show last month and has graciously agreed to share his impressions of that event and also talk about the future of the auto industry in general.

The videos below are excerpts from our Office Hour talk which I’ve edited down to very short Q&A-style bits of 1-2 minutes long. We talked about some fascinating things — from the effects of a NAFTA pull-out by the US to the massive changes coming to the industry from car sharing and self-driving autos.

What’s happening with “on-shoring?”

Will Trump really be successful in “bringing the jobs back to the US of A?”

How does the international planning process work?

As Business Planning Director for Asia Pacific, you were overseeing what cars are introduced in what countries, where you site your manufacturing plants and on what timetable, and negotiating agreements with JV partners. In that position, can you talk a little about your process for thinking about future demand and how far ahead are you typically looking before you can move into a new market?

How do big automakers handle different regional requirements?

Customers in different regions have different preferences and tastes. How do those factor into the planning process internationally?

What would pulling out of NAFTA do to the auto business?

Lately, there have been news stories about President Trump possibly pulling out of NAFTA. Even the less drastic versions of possible outcomes sound pretty drastic. What are people saying about this in the industry and what kind of an effect would a pull-out have on the industry?

Where are auto plants in terms of automation?

If automakers were forced to manufacture domestically, what would the effect on local employment be?

How are the auto shows set up and what do Automakers hope to gain?

Is the purpose of these shows marketing? Industrial espionage?

Any surprises at the Frankfurt show?

Were there any notable introductions or themes at the October 2017 show?

How do Millennials’ changing attitudes towards cars change the industry?

Things ain’t like the old days. Lots of kids just don’t seem interested in driving. What effect does this trend have on automakers?

What effect will electrification have on automaker profits?

It seems like electric vehicles have the potential to really change the way automakers do business…

What’s the perception of diesel in light of the VW scandal? How does the industry perceive VW?

My view is that if VW was not the national champion of Germany, it would have gone bankrupt from the emissions scandal.

What’s the glidepath for hybrid and electric vehicles to replace internal combustion engines?

Is Tesla disadvantaged because of its lack of automaking experience?

What do you think of Tesla’s valuation and prospects?

How soon can we expect the transition to self-driving autos?

What automakers seem best-placed for a future heavy in car sharing?

Automaker Logo Word Association Game

When will Ford ever become a good investment?!

The crux of the meeting… Is Ford worth investing in?