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Auto Industry Growing; Offers New Demands, Opportunities

Thomas Kurfess
By Thomas Kurfess 2018 SME President

In 2017, the international automotive industry produced 73.5 million passenger cars, an increase of around 2.4%, compared with the previous year. In 2018, car sales are expected to continue to grow to about 81.6 million units, with China remaining the largest producer of passenger cars, according to a report on

As you will read in IHS Markit’s industry overview, it is predicted that North America will remain largely stable with output increasing by only 300,000 units, contributing just under 16% of global volume, compared with about 18% in 2017. Additional details are included in the overview.

In this 2018’s issue of the Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing yearbook, you will also find comprehensive feature articles, some of which are highlighted below:

–A perspective from Gordon Styles, president and CEO of Star Rapid, on how metal 3D printing is creating new possibilities for the automotive sector.

–Honda Motor Co. provides details on its preparation of two Ohio factories to produce the company’s flagship car, the redesigned 2018 Accord.

–Learn about NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas racing team and its utilization of Dynamic Motion toolpaths, featured in Mastercam CAD/CAM software, to reduce outsourcing, provide better quality control, improved delivery times and added protection for proprietary designs.

–Roush Enterprises Inc. decided to go big into 3D printing, including buying a $2 million printer capable of printing large parts.

–Through Tata Technologies you will discover how connected cars will change vehicle design, touting “a treasure trove of new innovations that include wireless connectivity, sensors, improved artificial intelligence and smart transportation infrastructures.”

–A team from the University of Connecticut used 3D scanning to reverse engineer a Suzuki GSX-R600 engine for a Formula SAE Michigan competition.

–One Spartan Motors executive describes how the company uses partnerships to build electric vehicles.

—EU Automation shares information on the evolution of automated guided vehicles (AGVs)—they’re getting “smarter” and able to do more on their own.

—Prima Power Laserdyne offers its insights into fiber-laser advancements for better electric vehicle battery welds.

–In the workforce section, Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor & economics, Center for Automotive Research, offers a commentary on the auto industry seeing an increase in the use of robots, creating the need for new kinds of jobs.

Once you have perused the yearbook pages, you can keep up to date on what is happening in the industry by bookmarking the motorized vehicle section on the SME Media website,, or by visiting and downloading our recent report: “Driving Talent: Developing Next-Gen Talent for the U.S. Automotive Sector.”

In this report, we examine the automotive industry’s talent gap challenge in detail: An SME survey shows more than three-quarters of US automotive manufacturers and suppliers anticipate major challenges finding the skilled workers they need. To retain leadership in the auto sector, competency-based initiatives developed by industry in partnership with SME can help individual companies address employee recruitment and training needs.

I would also encourage you to visit and download a few journal articles to see what’s next on the horizon for manufacturing (SME members receive free access to our journals). Two of the journals recently released special issues on Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing.

With “factories of the future” on the rise and manufacturing processes growing smarter, there are new demands and opportunities facing those who are and will be part of the US manufacturing workforce. As a manufacturing industry resource and advocacy organization, SME looks forward to seeing what’s next on the horizon and continuing to support all of you and your efforts.

Thank you for being part of SME.

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