The Annual SC Automotive Summit shows serious horsepower across the Southeast

March 10, 2020

By Existing Industry Specialist Jay Kramer

Charleston County Economic Development’s Business Concierge Team attended the SC Automotive Summit to support our automotive companies as we continue to build a diverse and globally competitive supply base. The summit is known for its impressive speaker line-up and inspiring forecasts and delivered just that. Automotive industry leaders from across the country traveled to Greenville, including Dr. Marchel Schäfer, Senior Research Scientist at Fraunhofer, USA and Gary Silberg, National Automotive Sector Industry Leader, at KPMG. Here are some key highlights:

Software & Technology

  • Software currently contributes to about 10% of a vehicle’s value, in the next few years it will contribute to 40% of a vehicle’s value. Yes, software.
  • Gary Silberg presented findings from his paper “The New ICE Age.” He stressed the importance of the Internal Computing Engine, instead of the Internal Combustion Engine. Better computing = more efficiency, safety.
  • Vehicles are becoming electrified, autonomous, and connected while software companies and semiconductor manufacturers continue to play a growing part of tomorrow’s automotive industry.
  • In the coming years Quantum Computing could have an accelerating effect on the computing power in vehicles.
  • Infotainment systems in vehicles will continue to improve driver experience and safety.


  • Continental Tire will begin to introduce tires and other automotive components made from dandelion rubber which is considered a more sustainable compound.
  • Smart cities will help improve traffic patterns and improve efficiency by leveraging connectivity of vehicles.
  • Start-up electric vehicle companies such as Rivian (currently fulfilling an order of 100,000 delivery vans for Amazon) could soon be major players in the automotive industry


  • With many automotive manufacturers working toward zero auto-related deaths or serious injuries in the coming years, safety is taking priority in R&D departments across the globe. Headrests that detect impaired driving or mirrors that analyze for distracted driving might not be to far off.

Global Trade

  • Global automotive production continues to align in key customer countries.
  • Automotive companies should prepare for additional capital outlay to navigate tariffs successfully.

SC Fraunhofer USA Alliance

  • South Carolina has partnered with Fraunhofer USA to help fuel innovation between industry and research universities. The Fraunhofer organization has helped develop inventions such as the MP3, white LED light, and dandelion-based tires.

Workforce Development

  • South Carolina continues to throttle up on workforce development activities. The state has seen tremendous success with workforce around Charleston as Mercedes-Benz Vans and Volvo brought facilities on line in the last year.
  • Apprenticeship programs continue to increase in popularity as manufacturers are committed to cultivating their own talent.

Hot Tip

  • The B2B Matchmaker Event that kicked off the summit was incredible for business development. If you missed it, be sure to sign up next year.

Existing Industry is our #1 goal

Charleston County is humming on all cylinders with Mercedes-Benz Vans leading the pack. Our manufacturing 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 and contact us.