Daimler got lucky with Marcela Craciunescu. Five years ago, the Romanian software developer had been at Alcatel-Lucent developing a fourth-generation mobile network for the U.S. telecommunications companies in Timisoara. Craciunescu’s sister, who had moved to Stuttgart from Romania, suggested she consider working for the city’s best-known company, Daimler. While Craciunescu didn’t speak any German, the programmer was looking for a change and found herself typing in the company’s Internet address. It was here that she hoped to find the answer to her most burning question: What is Daimler?
When she learned that it was the parent of premium brand Mercedes-Benz, her curiosity was piqued. She decided to apply for a role as a systems developer -- not at the automaker, but at the group’s captive financial services business. “They were impressed that I was more interested in the position itself than simply working for Daimler,” she recalled in Stockholm last September during the Me Convention, which was co-sponsored by Mercedes.
IT specialists such as Craciunescu are in high demand as automakers battle to lure programmers, coders and developers for smartphone-enabled mobility services. Companies such Volkswagen Group and Daimler are re-inventing themselves to attract a new generation of tech-savvy employees. VW Group premium brand Audi, for example, now describes itself as a “premium digital car company.” BMW went further by purging any direct reference to its traditional product in the group’s mission statement. Instead, the company with the word “motor” as its middle name aims to be seen as a “tech company for premium mobility.” Mercedes, meanwhile, opted to unveil its new CLA last month at CES in Las Vegas, where incoming Daimler CEO Ola Källenius said the automaker now operates “as a software company [that] builds trailblazing mobile devices.” At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said he now leads a “software-driven car company.”
But are these just superficial attempts to change investor perceptions and to appear trendy? To better understand where the car industry stood in relation to other industries, consultancy Bearing Point conducted a survey among automotive executives across Europe, the U.S. and Asia. It then mapped their comments against those from counterparts in the telecommunications, banking and tech sectors.