Managing Director & Senior Partner; Global Vice Chair, Global Advantage Practice
The intensifying competition between rising emerging-market companies and established multinationals remains at the top of the agenda for CEOs. Challengers not only are radically disrupting a wide range of industries but also are increasingly becoming global leaders themselves. This article is part of a new report, Dueling with Dragons 2.0: The Next Phase of Global Competition, that analyzes the sea change under way in the global automotive-supply, construction-equipment, and chemical industries and the implications for both multinational corporations (MNCs) and emerging-market players (EMPs). The report, along with its recommendations, is based on comprehensive quantitative and qualitative research that included interviews with more than 100 executives and industry experts in China, India, and Latin America.
We found that even though the nature and competitive landscape of these three businesses vary significantly, MNCs in each industry are facing urgent challenges to their leadership from EMPs. Key executives from both MNCs and EMPs expect that competition will further intensify in all three industries. Improving global competitiveness, therefore, must be a top priority of CEOs.
The global automotive-supply industry—which has long been dominated by companies based in developed economies because of close relationships with the leading automobile manufacturers there—illustrates the rapid changes in the competitive balance between MNCs and challengers based in emerging markets. We assessed the current competitive landscape, its likely evolution over the medium term, and the best strategic options available to both MNCs and EMPs.
In 2008, 25 million light vehicles—a category that includes passenger cars, sports utility vehicles, and light and pickup trucks—were produced in emerging markets, equaling 37 percent of global production of light vehicles. In 2013, that share had grown to almost 50 percent, and China alone—by then the largest car producer in the world—had an annual output of 21 million units. The emerging markets, then, are the growth engine of the car industry.
This shift to emerging markets, however, is not yet reflected in the size of automotive suppliers: the ten largest MNC suppliers have an average of $29 billion in annual revenues, which is almost six times the average annual revenue level of the top ten EMPs. (See Exhibit 1.) Nevertheless, the shift of car manufacturing to emerging markets enabled these EMPs to achieve rapid growth that averaged 21 percent annually from 2008 through 2014; the MNCs grew at a much slower pace during that period.
The top EMPs fall into two categories. Some are already global: Nemak, Iochpe-Maxion, and Bharat Forge have a sales presence, a manufacturing presence, or both on several continents. Others, however, especially Chinese companies, were until recently very busy satisfying their explosively growing home markets. They are now looking for expansion opportunities abroad and seeking to catch up in technology. (See “Weichai Power: Vaulting Ahead Through Technology Partnerships.”)
From an MNC perspective, the forward march of the EMPs puts many component segments under threat. The manufacture of critical core components such as engines, transmissions, and car electronics is still perceived to be dominated by MNCs. But in segments such as interiors, passenger restraints, wheels and tires, fuel systems, and body glass, leading EMPs are rapidly closing in on the MNCs in terms of quality and performance. One example is China’s Fuyao Group, which was unknown even to many industry insiders until a decade ago. Today, the company is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of automotive safety glass, producing windshields not only for local Chinese clients but also for Western and Japanese multinationals.
By 2020, as many as 102 million light vehicles could be produced globally, with most being built in emerging markets. At that point, China alone could be producing about one-third of the global output, adding another 10 million units to its current volume—more than the current output of Japan.
This trend will put additional pressure on MNC suppliers, which already suffer from a geographical misalignment between their global sales and global car production; most today make only 10 to 20 percent of their revenues in Asia. Many of the executives interviewed for this report believe that most MNCs will react by establishing large investment programs to globalize their businesses quickly enough to keep up with this trend.
Nevertheless, most executives also expect that despite MNCs’ efforts, the increasing home-field advantage will help EMPs, especially those based in China, achieve a second wave of growth that will enable them to further expand outside their own markets.
Our simulations indicate that select EMPs will catch up with the top ten MNCs in sales volume by 2020 even if they grow only half as fast as they did during the past six years. (See Exhibit 2.) But in even the most aggressive scenario, it would still take about 13 years for three EMPs to join the ranks of the world’s five largest automotive suppliers.
In the face of tectonic changes, MNCs and EMPs need to develop the right set of strategies along three dimensions: products and technology, operations, and go-to-market approaches. The automotive-supply executives we interviewed cited a number of actions that are essential for companies to remain successful and win in the increasingly competitive global environment.
Key Strategies for MNCs
MNCs will need to take action in the areas of products and technology, operations, and go-to-market approach.
Products and Technology. From the interviews, the following top priorities emerged:
Operations. Key findings from the interviews include the following:
Go-to-Market Approach. In our research and interviews, the following key strategies emerged:
Key Strategies for EMPS
EMPs will also need to adopt new strategies for their products and technology, operations, and go-to-market approaches.
Products and Technology. The top priorities cited by executives include the following:
Operations. The following key strategies emerged from our interviews:
Go-to-Market Approach. Industry experts recommend that EMPs follow a global branding strategy. It is important for EMPs to create brands outside their home markets. In our experience, this is a challenge for many EMPs, both within and outside the automotive-supply industry. However, several have found creative ways to overcome this challenge. For example, Hankook Tire is aggressively investing in sponsorships of racing series to create a strong brand for its products, while Weichai—an engine manufacturer—is partnering with Ferrari’s Formula 1 team. (See “Weichai Power.”) Our experts believe that EMPs will make this type of bold move more often in the next couple of years as their ambitions continue to grow.
The strategies of leading MNCs and EMPs in the automotive-supply industry reflect the fact that they are starting from different places. But the vast majority of executives in both types of companies shared one sentiment in our interviews: the pace of change is faster than they would have expected it to be a few years ago, and it’s accelerating. Executives must act with resolve to prepare their businesses for the inevitable shifts to come.
As a result of our extensive work with leading companies on their globalization strategies and the findings from this study, we have defined a three-step approach for companies to succeed in the quickly changing global competitive landscape. (See Exhibit 4.)
Step One: Specify the Challenge. Most companies today take stock of market developments and key competitors in their regular strategy and planning processes. We have found, however, that these standard processes often fall short of establishing a commonly shared opinion when it comes to the opportunities and risks of globalization. Also, the remarkable speed with which new competitors from emerging markets have arrived on the scene requires companies to maintain extensive intelligence on their competition. Many organizations have found it useful to track in detail the development of their top 20 or so competitors regarding major wins, investments, partnerships, and geographic footprints.
Given the sometimes volatile and difficult-to-forecast developments in global markets, it is very important to form a common vision of what the industry will look like in three to five years. This requires an understanding of the areas for action. What are the fundamental trends in demand, for example, regardless of economic or political turmoil in some countries? How does a company compare with its competitors? What will be the next breakthrough in technology? How are regulations likely to change? This vision should guide efforts in the second step of the process and the big bets a company takes.
Step Two: Define a Winning Mix of Strategies. In this article, we have outlined the most common areas requiring action by MNCs and EMPs in the automotive-supply industry.
At the most basic level, MNCs must first defend the core—their home markets and the global premium segment—by reinforcing strengths such as technology and customer proximity. Second, they must expand their business model to tackle EMPs on their home turf. Because we believe it is helpful to think about both targets from three angles—products and technologies, operations, and the go-to-market approach—we have offered our analysis from those perspectives.
Depending on the industry and the specific position of a company within it, the relative importance of these three levers varies greatly. We strongly recommend taking a holistic view, because many companies find that they need to undergo a transformative approach that comprises a wide range of diagnostics and change measures in all three categories to address their globalization challenge.
EMPs typically enjoy the benefits of a relatively low cost position and a growing home market. However, it has been our experience that during the phase of hypergrowth, many EMPs are not able to build the organizational and technological capabilities that they need to continue their global expansion. On the basis of our broad experience in working with emerging-market challengers, we have defined a dedicated, comprehensive approach that enables an EMP to go global. The global Challenger to Leader Program covers four areas and ensures that they are aligned with the company’s globalization agenda:
Step Three: Prepare for Change. We see two key enablers of a successful globally competitive strategy. One is to properly align organization and governance structures. Adjusting key performance indicators and defining the right balance of decision authority between headquarters and country operations are two important issues that must be resolved.
The other key enabler centers on partnerships and joint ventures, which many companies will find are key elements in their strategy mix. A recent BCG study on mergers and acquisitions revealed that the vast majority of executives are disappointed by the performance of their cross-border joint ventures. (See Getting More Value from Joint Ventures, BCG Focus, December 2014). The analysis identified several critical measures that can help avoid such disappointment. (See Exhibit 5.) They include ensuring that there is cultural chemistry between partners and that there is alignment on strategic goals and business plans, including a clear process for when business plans are not met along the way. Other measures are a sound governance model and an exit plan.
Globalization will continue to bring significant shifts to the automotive-supply industry—and undoubtedly to many more. But despite these shifts, most of the executives we surveyed agreed that for the well-prepared company—whether from the developed or the developing world—the globalized market offers much more opportunity than risk.
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