Charleston, South Carolina: Delivering Automotive Opportunity

February 28, 2019

By Jennifer Brown & Jay Kramer

Spending two days with automotive manufacturing thought leaders at the 2019 SC Automotive Summit, it became clear that the future of mobility will be about connectivity, autonomy, electrification, and the industry’s workforce.

Representatives from OEMs and suppliers from every tier come together each year as South Carolina celebrates the success of our automotive industry at the SC Automotive Summit. Typically held in Greenville, the exchange of best practices, industry forecasting and high-impact networking is phenomenal.

Mike Mansuetti, President – North America, Bosch presented on the importance of adaptability and how to turn industry disruption into opportunity. He spoke of the success Bosch has seen in piloting “The Adaptive Space” at their firm to bridge the gap between R&D/innovation and operational effectiveness. “The Adaptive Space” provides an internal startup framework for employees to contribute innovations, products and ideas, and helps the firm develop and take great ideas to market… Intrapreneurship.

Joanie Martin, Chief Administrative Officer, Michelin North America, spoke about Michelin’s positioning as a sustainable mobility company. She touched on the importance of sustainable sourcing of raw materials, to new joint ventures expected at Michelin and the exciting future of Michelin’s next generation of the “tweel.”

As the most anticipated speaker at the event, Gary Silberg, America’s Head of Automotive at KPMG, built on his previous year’s presentations on autonomous driving through deep learning, the neural net and continued electrification. Gary’s presentation titled, “Autonomy Delivered” laid out an extremely bright future for delivery vehicles and the integration of autonomous systems to satisfy the massive demand for online order fulfillment. Three years after Mercedes-Benz Vans’ announced their “Vision Van” concept, all of these autonomous delivery solutions appear to feature elements forecasted by Mercedes back in 2016.

Mercedes-Benz Vans full OEM assembly plant in North Charleston is undoubtedly positioned to play a significant role in the future of delivery vehicles. Governor Henry McMaster and Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt both stated that the growing automotive industry in South Carolina and the exceptional collaboration of OEM’s and suppliers will continue to drive our state and region’s automotive industry success.

Workforce Development

With a bright future, automotive industry success cannot be made without a talented and skilled workforce. Workforce development was the underlying theme at the Summit.  Each speaker and panelist spoke highly of his or her respective manufacturing facilities. However, without training and retention efforts, valuable workers will be lost. Appreciation of employees, their contributions and collaborative efforts are celebrated. Culture of a company and adapting to worker needs is paramount.

The apprenticeship model has been a mainstay in the automotive industry sector. Training for a lifetime will sustain the workforce needs. Here in Charleston County we boast a remarkable Youth Apprenticeship program along with Adult Apprenticeships through Trident Technical College and Apprenticeship Carolina. Creating a pipeline of talent that reaches down into high school and elementary school is at the forefront. Manufacturers and workforce development allies are working hard to illustrate that with a technical college pathway or ManuFirst certificate, doors open to a successful and prosperous career.

Existing Industry is our number one goal

Charleston County is humming on all cylinders with Mercedes-Benz Vans leading the pack. Our automotive snapshot shows a diverse industry providing significant value to the region. We regularly meet with our companies, and offer resources to fuel growth.  If we may be of assistance to your company, please visit CharlestonCountyDevelopment.org and contact us.