HBR Asks: Is the Auto Industry Facing an Existential Crisis?

Harvard Business School’s Michael L. Tushman delves into disruption and what he calls the existential question facing the auto industry: What does the future hold?

Tushman writes:

This shift is starting to pose an existential question for the automobile industry: What sort of cars will we need in 10 years? If the answer really is electric, autonomous ones, that will pose a huge challenge for an industry that has not fundamentally changed since the first Model T rolled off Henry Ford’s production line.

We know that GM or Toyota cannot just close down production of gasoline engine cars and transform themselves into Tesla. They have to compete just as hard as ever to sustain leadership in the markets that exist today, even as they figure out how to compete in the future.

It’s an interesting look at how legacy automakers like GM must compartmentalize their strategic thinking- how do you balance keeping an eye on the future without sacrificing your current core business? And at that, are they spinning themselves into a tizzy worrying about changes which seem to be happening at a glacial pace?

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