Changchun complains about a lack of automotive talent

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Changchun is the home to First Automobile Works that has partnerships with Mazda, Toyota, Audi and VW, the problem is that although Changchun has become a major automotive production hub it just can’t attract the talent. Now the problem is not that FAW and its partners are paying low money (in fact, I hear they pay well above average) it’s just that Changchun’s long bleak winters which often see -20 (and below) and run from September to May are just inhospitable for most, especially when other car manufacturers in the more moderate south are hiring at just a fast a rate.

From China Daily:

For China’s auto industry to become more advanced it must break through the talent shortage bottleneck to boost technological innovation, experts said at an auto expo being held in the northeastern province of Jilin.

Despite the rapid growth of the auto sector in recent years, the country still lags far behind auto powers Germany, Japan and the United States in technology, development environment, innovation and talents, said Fu Yuwu, vice chairman with the Society of Automotive Engineers of China, while attending the eighth China Changchun International Auto Expo.

“But the root cause of all the other three weaknesses is the talent shortage. The world’s largest auto market has to solve the problem in order to transform from a big auto manufacturer to a strong one,” Fu said.

Speaking at a forum held during the auto expo, Zhang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of China Machinery Industry Federation, echoed his views, saying that independent innovation is the key to accomplish the goal.

The 2011 International Forum on Advanced Vehicle Technologies and Integration (VTI 2011), focusing on technical discussions, is jointly held by Society of Automotive Engineers of China, China FAW Group and Jilin University from July 16-18 in Jilin’s capital city of Changchun, the cradle of the country’s automotive industry and one of the largest auto manufacturing centers.

“That’s why we hold the VTI 2011 during the auto expo this year, through which we hope to promote inter-industry technological exchanges,” Zhang said.

Despite being a pillar industry within 10 years’ development, the country’s auto sector still faces a series of problems, especially the technological gap with other leading auto-manufacturing countries, Zhang said.

“The auto industry never lacks market and capital. What it urgently needs is technology, but the key to acquire the technology is the talent that masters the technology,” Zhang said.

According to Zhang, auto sales, which hit 18.06 million vehicles last year, are expected to reach 20 million units this year, 10 times that in 2000.

“But we only have the superiority of scale without any technological strength,” Zhang said.

Due to the removal of government incentives, purchase limits in some cities and rising oil prices, auto sales registered a 3.25-percent year-on-year growth rate in the first half of the year after surging 30 percent in 2010 and 50 percent in 2009. Home-grown brands were badly hit as consumers turned to foreign brands for better quality and performances.

Beijing created a car-quota system to combat traffic woes in January, allowing only 240,000 new cars to be registered in the city this year, compared with the 800,000 new automobiles that took to the streets in 2010.

“It is a certain stage that the sector has to go through, though a difficult one,” Zhang said.

Guan Xin, dean of Auto Engineering School of Jilin University, was positive about the future of home-grown brands.

“The country’s auto market still fosters huge potentials as the demand is strong,” said Guan, adding that the cause behind the drop is the backward technologies and the problem will be resolved as the sector makes technological advances.

Meanwhile, Zhang suggested that home-grown brands should not rely on policies for growth as the country’s auto market is a quite open one.

“Industry restructuring is inevitable. Products and enterprises that fail to withstand the test of the market should be weeded out,” Zhang said, adding that policy support should only be limited to technological research such as in the component sector.

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11 Comments

  • jackson
    July 19, 2011

    By talent they mean cheap talent, which they think they can hire a lot seeing they are a lot of unemployed university graduates out there. But they are wrong, to become a talent or automotive professional like engineers or body stylist took lot of experience and training which they do not wish to provide. Also the Chinese car manufacturers run their car plants like a bunch of textile factories without any solid effort at R&D and marketing and even after sale services. In the end they are nothing but a bunch of opportunists, when their luck runs out( the government can only provide so much support) they start whining.

  • CCT
    July 19, 2011

    Jackson, you have clearly worked in a Chinese automotive manufacturer at some point – you are spot on the money here. I spent the majority of yesterday evening with Chinese designers from tier one state owned manufacturers, these guys are top talent with ideas bursting out of their ears (and hands) however they blame the majority of bland or whacky designs that are coming out of Chinese car companies on their immediate superiors who seem to think that the market requires what a 40 to 50 year old gray haired pudgy executive requires. Chinese companies are not bringing out designs to rival JV’s in the Chinese market, and wont be able to rival foreign companies in the international market.

  • watcher
    July 19, 2011

    I feel that perhaps the wrong people are involved with China auto industry. If we could have Huawei or ZTE type of talent and attitude running the industry, it could really be something.

  • LOL
    July 20, 2011

    From my German point of view:

    Western pros:
    - 100 years more experience.
    - Students get in contact with industry early through interships etc.
    - Close cooperation within teams through mutual assistance.
    - Earger to experiment.
    - Independent and self-reliant.

    Western cons:
    - 10% talents, 90% garbage within population.
    - Sometimes poor academic basics.
    - A lot of try and error, sometimes bearless. Experiments and crazy projects that don’t seem to lead anywhere.

    Chinese pros:
    - Sometimes have much basics than Western students.
    - Well educated students.
    - Good financial basis in the industry and solid demand in the home market.

    Chinese cons:
    - Absolute deficit compared to foreign brands.
    - Possibly a rigid hierachical order in the companies? I don’t know for sure.
    - Corruption and nepotism.
    - Low wages (who would work in China if they pay lot more in the West?)
    - Possibly not enough ways to get important internships in the companies.
    - Chinese kids learn tons of bullshit, they don’t need, i.e. they lose time. You can’t learn programming and foreign language at school! You don’t need to learn ancient poems if you want to go into the car industry! Kids need to room to spezialize.
    - The general subconcious misbelief among Asians that Western products are always better than domestic ones.

  • dragin
    July 20, 2011

    As an long time SAE member, my first and only experience with China’s SAE comes to mind. A visit to the SAE office at Auto Beijing a few years ago was greeted with a steely cold un-welcome. No one had time to chat or talk tech with the foreigner. Even a language barrier is no exuse here. SAE China should anticipate engaging English-speaking attendees at such a high profile automotive event.

  • I __ H a t e __ C h i n a
    July 21, 2011

    The way Japanese and Korean automakers do it is they take fresh college graudates, mentor them and train them for the next 15 years, and then they become competent auto engineers actually able to engineer a car. Shockingly, Nissan is doing the same thing in Vietnam with its Vietnamese engineers, but doesn’t even bother to open an R&D center in China. This is why we have competent Vietnamese and Indian auto engineers and not Chinese auto engineers.

    What, a 15-year long training sounds too long and too expensive for Chinese taste? Then Chinese aren’t suitable to compete in the auto industry against Japanese and Koreans who grow their engineering and designing talent inhouse instead of looking for one on the free market.

  • LoL
    July 22, 2011

    Maybe Nissan is not opening up an R&D in China as the Japanese have always been suspicious of Chinese (that’s why Toyota is doing so badly compared to VW, early bird catches the worm). But other companies are doing R&D in China, e.g. Conti, Bosch and Daimler.

    Competent Vitnamese and Indian engineers? Well, maybe as immigrants in Europe or the US (a top level Daimler engineer comes from India). I can’t recall any fancy Vitnamese cars or any Vitnamese cars at all and the Tata Nano is to a great extent a German car (oh this makes me proud).

    But apart from that I agree that the companies have to take an active role themselves in creating a brilliant workforce and connect with students early on. This is an integral standard in Germany.

  • CCT
    July 22, 2011

    Nissan are opening an R&D center in Beijing, it is already confirmed, it will be operated by Nissan directly rather than DF-Nissan.

  • CCT
    July 22, 2011

    So where do Kia’s design team come from?

  • LOL
    July 22, 2011

    Dunno. I only know they are ugly as hell…

  • snowdoger
    July 30, 2011

    Actually, the chinese university graduates are more or less the same even with different majors. The main reason for the difference between IT and Automotive industry’s talents, from my point of view, comes from the different nature of the industries. IT is a knowledge concentrated industry, human resource is highly valued than automotive industry, in china the latter always take equipments and money investment as main focus, university graduates always easily find that they are neglected in the workshops, nevertheless less salary. Currently in Yangtze River Delta area,the salary for graduates of mechanical, automotive and meterial majors is 2000-3000rmb/m in average. For IT, I think probably not less than 3500rmb/m.

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