Thursday, October 8, 2015

An MBA at An OEM: The Top 3 Things I Learned This Summer

John W. Scott
By John W. Scott, MBA'16

This summer I interned at Audi of America with the Marketing Research and Electric Vehicles teams.  It was an incredible experience and one that taught me a great deal over the course of 10 weeks.  Now, as a second-year MBA Candidate at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, I reflect on my greatest takeaways and what I believe will influence the industry for the long-term.

1. Passion drives the company and industry forward

One of the most surprising things I discovered about the automotive industry is that not everybody is a die-hard auto enthusiast like me.  What’s interesting is that although not everyone has gasoline in their veins, they are all passionate about the brand and the industry overall.  It is no secret that the auto industry is going through one of the most innovative and tumultuous periods of the last 100 years, and you can feel it every day while working at an automaker.  At Audi of America, I was incredibly fortunate to work alongside people who have a vision of what Audi will be in the next 5, 10, even 20 years down the road.  They’re passionate about the brand and the competition.  They’re passionate about the technology that is being developed and released to the public.  They’re excited about what could be as well as what is.  In the end, passion in this industry can take a plethora of forms and that’s what makes it so great.

2. Data, data, data

If there’s one thing you learn while studying consumer marketing in business school, it’s that data drives any and all well-informed decisions. Historically, data has been most useful for CPG firms as their customers buy their products frequently.  In the auto industry, it’s not so easy.  For the most part, cars are purchased infrequently, which can make it challenging to learn about your consumers.  Luckily, there are tools being developed and utilized to help automakers track marketing messages to an actual sale.  During my time at Audi of America, I saw first-hand how data is being leveraged through a variety of internal and external sources to influence critical decisions for the short- and long-term.  It’s safe to say that data is only going to become more important over time, affecting all parts of the business.  Knowing the consumer at a granular level is key, and being able to decipher the data in a meaningful way is even more so.

3. Think long-term, not short-term

I think it’s no coincidence that at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, there were several automakers who announced battery electric vehicle (BEV) concepts that will no doubt be put into production in the coming years. Companies are recognizing that 1) they need to act quickly with BEV R&D, and 2) the long-term viability of fossil fuels is impossible.  This summer, I learned that it can be challenging to balance short-term profit goals with long-term R&D investment, but the survival of the industry is dependent upon maintaining this long-term focus.  The key to the continued success and viability of an automaker will be focusing on the long-term, as investing now will mean the survival of the brand in the future.

It is an exciting time to be in the auto industry, and it will only get more exciting.  Have something you would like to add to the list?  Let me know in the comments!

"An MBA at an OEM: the Top 3 Things I Learned This Summer" was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on September 30, 2015.


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