The coronavirus pandemic will slow the rollout of some electrified vehicle programs as suppliers deal with liquidity issues, auto makers postpone launches and consumer hold off on new-car purchases, said Michael Robinet, executive director of automotive advisory services at IHS Markit, in a Zoom presentation Wednesday during the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars.
"The next four to six quarters will be critical," Robinet said, adding that another lockdown could throw the industry off course to the point where it could be three to four years before sales return to 2018 levels.
But auto makers and suppliers must be prepared to deal with different market conditions globally, he warned.
"The rebound from COVID will be slow and uneven in the world," he said.
Europe and China, driven mostly by regulatory policies and higher fuel prices than in North America, are likely to see higher sales of either hybrid or full-electric vehicles.
In the U.S., sales of electrified vehicles will be based on three factors: price, performance and convenience, said panelist Sandra Stojkovski, CEO North America and senior vice president global injectors business at supplier Vitesco Technologies.
That equation puts greater pressure on suppliers to focus on the technologies of electrification.
Vitesco is soon to be spun off from the German megasupplier Continental to focus on producing drivetrain components for electrified vehicles.
Vitesco is recasting its product portfolio to transition from being a producer of components used mostly in internal combustion-powered vehicles to a producer of parts for electrified vehicles, she said.
"We are exiting those products that don't have a medium- and long-term growth horizon, things like high-pressure fuel pumps and injectors," Stojkovski said. "Those were big parts of our business. In the future, not so much.
"Furthermore, we are doubling down on electrification, areas where our systems and electronics expertise can drive growth, technologies like start-generators, battery management systems and inverters."
But Vitesco won't exit all segments that cater to internal combustion engines, Stojkovski clarified. It will continue to build its engine and transmission control units, sensors and actuators.