Continental's boss doesn't know whether the shift could be a net gain or loss of jobs in the auto industry.
The vast majority of vehicles still get around by burning petroleum-based fuel in an internal combustion engine, but stricter rules about fuel economy greenhouse gas emissions mean that electricity is an increasingly more viable method of motoring. According to Elmar Degenhart, CEO at automotive supplier Continental, the movement towards EVs could put conventional engine builders out of work.
"Due to the low added value, production jobs will be lost," Degenhart told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag about the future for engine builders, according to Reuters. "There is enough time to design the process such that the blow is softened and major pain can be avoided.” The quotes come from a larger interviewer for Welt am Sonntag’s upcoming Sunday issue.
The shift towards constructing electric motors and batteries will create new positions in the auto industry. Degenhart believes it is too soon predict whether there are enough of these jobs to replace the ones that are no longer necessary, according to Reuters.
Earlier in 2016, Degenhart predicted that electric and hydrogen fuel cells would eventually become the norm. However, he estimated storage costs would need to reach $109 per kilowatt hour before they really became a mainstream proposition.
Degenhart commonly speaks his mind. He has also forecasted that Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal would possibly be the end of using the fuel for passenger cars in the United States, Japan, and China.
EVs will undoubtedly bring massive changes to the automotive job market and not only in terms of manufacturing. For example, electric motors and batteries don’t require the same maintenance as internal combustion engines, which means mechanics require a whole new set of skills.
Autonomous technology will potentially bring even bigger disruptions. For example, Firms are already experimenting with making autonomous package deliveries, and long-haul trucking isn’t far behind. Allstate predicts the systems could devastate the auto insurance industry because collisions could be so rare. Plus, there's the problem of deciding on liability when technology causes an accident, not a human driver.