Business English and the Automotive Industry

There is a real challenge out there as the Automotive Industry ‘globalises’ – experts in a number of disciplines from Sales to Design, Engineering to Manufacturing are having to talk to each other across continents. This brings so many challenges, both for the business and the individual. Companies like Nissan and Renault have important alliances in place, and most automotive manufacturers are present in China, working with local industries.

The Challenge

English is the global language of the Automotive Industry

There are ever increasing demands on Automotive executives:

International Travel

International Companies & Alliances

Shared, Time-pressured Development programmes

International Meetings – face to face, on the phone, even on TV

International Communications – e-mails, letters, video conferencing

Global Experts in Design, Sales, Engineering, Manufacturing, Finance who have challenges when trying to get their expertise across.

The Personal Challenge

Imaging the difficulties posed by the following examples:

1. “He’s wrong!” – but how do I tell him that politely?

2. “That’s not the best way” – but how do I tell them what is the best way in terms that they will understand and without offending them?

3. “I’m thirsty” – but how do I ask for a drink around here?

4. “I’d really like to see the way that he calculated that” – but how do I ask him?

5. “I don’t want to eat here, I’ve heard it’s no good!” – but how do I let them know?

6. “That’s a lousy deal!” – but how do we discuss this in the kind of detail I want to go into??

7. “I really want to understand what makes this colleague / customer ‘tick’ – it would make this project / negotiation much easier” – but I’m stuck for words! English is too difficult!

The Solution

The Automotive giants and their suppliers need to get their experts ‘up to speed’, NOW. International alliances and cooperation means more travel, more meetings and more and more shared projects and platforms. There are various options available to employers to enhance their employees’ skills in English, especially to those in Japan, Korea and China. The best option has to be one-to-one tuition in the UK, Australia or the US. Good training (which can also be carried out in-house, or in a language school either ‘at home’ or abroad) enables international experts to communicate easily and with confidence, so that a car-makers’ ideas and agenda are definitely put forward.

Too often during my career in the industry I have watched Japanese colleagues struggling to communicate their point of view (and therefore that of their employers!) to people from very foreign cultures. My favourite example of this is sitting in a car in the UK, next to a Turkish gentleman, and hearing one half of a conversation he was having with a Vietnamese gentleman who was speaking from his desk in France where he works for a German company – all about a project for a French customer for parts that would be manufactured in Turkey for a Romanian factory! All of this was in ENGLISH!

5 Hot Auto Alliances and What They Do

The global auto industry is built on competition, but it also espouses collaboration. Manufacturers may prefer to do it alone, but managers know that it often takes two or more car companies to make some projects a reality. The consolidation that some believed would result in fewer manufacturers is not happening. Instead, automakers have created alliances with the goal to sharing costs, building new products and strengthening balance sheets. Let’s take a look at five hot auto alliances and what they provide to companies and consumers alike.

Renault-Nissan Alliance — The most well-known hook up is French automaker Renault with Japanese car manufacturer Nissan. In 1999, Renault bought a stake in Nissan and Nissan bought a slightly smaller stake in Renault. This arrangement has come because Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of both companies has bridged the cultural divide to make the alliance work. These companies remain independent, but share car platforms, powertrains and manufacturing facilities as needed.

Fiat-Chrysler Alliance — In 2009 with Chrysler facing a likely shut down, Fiat chairman Sergio Marchionne stepped in to rescue the American car manufacturer. Unlike Daimler, which bought Chrysler out in 1998 and sold it off nine years later, Marchionne understands the American persona and has made changes that have helped Chrysler not only survive, but thrive. Arguably, Chrysler is in better shape today than Fiat is with Chrysler benefitting from Fiat platforms to build hot new cars such as the Dodge Dart. Fiat is currently embroiled in a European market that is in a recession and dogged with overcapacity issues.

GM-Isuzu — At one time, GM held a 49 percent stake in Isuzu, a small Japanese manufacturer with a penchant for making excellent diesel engines. GM’s truck engines have benefited from this alliance as has its Opel unit in Europe. The upside for Isuzu is that it still is an independent company even as smaller manufacturers fade away or get absorbed by global manufacturers.

Hyundai-Kia — Hyundai has a 38 percent stake in Kia and both companies comprise the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group. Kia was bankrupt and in danger of going out of business in the late 1990s when Hyundai stepped in. Hyundai has turned a competitor into an ally, with both companies sharing platforms, powertrains and manufacturing capacity as needed. Together, the two companies are now the fourth largest car manufacturer in the world by volume.

Toyota-Tesla — By the numbers, the Toyota and Tesla Motors hook up is small change. However, Toyota has a stake in the American EV maker and is also benefiting from Tesla technology. The Toyota RAV4 EV has a lithium-ion battery system developed by Tesla and Tesla has the money to compete in market dominated by Goliaths.

Other Alliances

There are many other alliances at work in the world including GM-Peugeot, Ford-Toyota, Ford-GM and an assortment of Chinese manufacturers allied with western and Asian car companies. Some alliances are temporary while others are forged at the foundation and are likely to last for years on end, alliances of necessity and of strategic planning.

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Marketing Through Non-Competitive Alliances and Bundling

In harder economic times a business owner must look for more ways to reach more customers, since fewer people are buying and those that are expect discounts and are buying less. This dilemma makes life tough as less revenue is coming in, yet more marketing is needed. Advertising, branding, promotions, well all that costs lots of money; money that may not be in the budget as the company works to keep its head above water and its profits out of the red.

So, what is the answer to this challenge, as failure is not an option and making a mistake is unacceptable, indeed, it might cause the firm to go into bankruptcy. Well, these are all the problems we face, and thus, a solution is needed and in a hurry. Well, let me make a suggestion to you.

Find other companies that are non-competitive and create alliances by sharing customer bases and bundle services. For instance, a flower shop might bundle with a restaurant putting gift certificates in gift baskets. An air-conditioning company might give out discount coupons for appliances. An automotive maintenance company, might give out coupons to the carwash. This works very well, and if you find a company that can give a reciprocal coupon, it works even better.

Pool cleaners can share lists with landscapers, bricklayers with wood deck builders or cleaners. The sky is the limit and it takes a little thought, but it is definitely a way to bring in more business, network in the community and increase sales and hopefully prices. I’ve been doing this for decades, and always made money during the recession periods. Think on this.