TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—Autonomous vehicles will shake up the supplier segment and create opportunities in how vehicles are heated and cooled.
New autonomous technologies may pose challenges to smaller, regional suppliers, warned Michael Robinet, managing director of automotive advisory services at IHS Markit, who spoke Aug. 1 at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City. He urged suppliers to be flexible as the industry transitions to self-driving cars.
The change will mean opportunities for new offerings, specifically in heating and cooling parts of the car.
"We need to help suppliers understand the level and the gravity of the changes that are coming in the market," Robinet said. "Some of the midsize suppliers stand the chance of being left behind if they aren't proactive in how they address the number of changes we see."
Large suppliers have been investing in the major trends, Robinet said, namely electrification, advanced driver assistance systems, connectivity and autonomous technology. The field is also becoming more crowded, as Silicon Valley startups turn to automotive and European Tier 2's come to the U.S. as European auto makers expand manufacturing capabilities here.
As vehicles transform to the autonomous era and become lighter to meet emissions standards, many of today's components will evolve or be dropped, Robinet added.
But by remaining flexible, smaller suppliers can pivot to new opportunities, he said, identifying thermal as a rapidly growing field. Maintaining battery and motor temperatures will be vital for electrified vehicles.
The growing number of electronics in autonomous vehicles—including the computer driving the car—will also require intensive temperature regulation. Additionally, temperature regulation for passengers is becoming increasingly localized—or catered to individual riders—requiring heating and cooling to come through seats, the floor and door panels.
"Thermal, in our opinion, is a major growth area, but also a market that's very fragmented," Robinet said. "There are interesting opportunities here."
Change in the supplier segment is undeniable, he said, but it won't necessarily spell doom for smaller companies that take advantage of new demands.
"The sky is not falling," Robinet said. "The number of changes over the next five years are going to be tremendous. That's going to set you up for the decade after that."
You can reach Katie Burke at [email protected] -- Follow Katie on Twitter: @KatieGBurke