E-mobility and suppliers – Is an optimistic view of the future appropriate?

Munich, August 2023

E-mobility and suppliers – Is an optimistic view of the future appropriate? Munich, August 2023


-mobility is already here. The growth of the battery-electric vehicle market around the world has been well above expectations over the past few years, with forecasts of even higher growth to come. With soaring registration figures for electric vehicles, the market for E-mobility components looks ever-more attractive – but will headline market growth turn into long-term profitability for suppliers?

Durch die rasant steigenden Zulassungszahlen für Elektrofahrzeuge steigt die vermeintliche Attraktivität des Marktes für Komponenten von Elektrofahrzeugen und damit auch der Druck für Zulieferer, in diesem Markt Fuß zu fassen.

When we asked top managers from the supplier industry how dependent they are on combustion cars now and how that will change in five years’ time, 70% of those who responded said they are currently dependent on combustion cars for more than a quarter of their turnover, with this figure expected to fall to only 51% within five years. On the one hand this underlines the huge transformation the supplier industry is already undergoing, but on the other it shows that many suppliers’ business models will remain tied to the combustion engine until the end of the decade.

Revenue shares depending on ICE
(in %)

Source: Berylls Supplier Executive E-Mobility Survey 2023

Most suppliers see more opportunity than risk in this transformation. Nearly one-in-eight managers surveyed see electromobility as an opportunity for their company (77%), while fewer than one-in-10 (9%) see more risks than opportunities.

Attitude toward electric mobility
(in %)

Source: Berylls Supplier Executive E-Mobility Survey 2023

And despite the uncertainties ahead, a full three-quarters of respondents (75%) expect a positive influence on turnover in the next five to 10 years, with only 13% forecasting a decline in margins due to electromobility.

Potential impact of E-mobility on suppliers‘ revenue & profitability
(in %)

Source: Berylls Supplier Executive E-Mobility Survey 2023

Difficult market conditions for suppliers

This level of optimism is striking, not least because one consequence of E-mobility is a more competitive and less certain market. For many suppliers, E-mobility will bring challenging levels of change, with low or even negative margins, high technological uncertainty and considerable financial risk.

In the E-mobility era suppliers are confronted with high transition costs, rapid development cycles and a shortage of E-mobility skills. All these factors combine to compress margins and intensify competition.

Despite rapid growth, absolute volumes for electric vehicles remain comparatively low, limiting the opportunity to offset high development costs through volume sales. Meanwhile short E-mobility innovation cycles force suppliers to develop and launch new product generations more frequently simply to keep pace with competitors even while OEMs remain focused on efficiency increases and cost reductions. In this environment it is unsurprising to find intense competition for E-mobility engineering skills from both OEMs and suppliers, forcing up labor costs and further squeezing supplier margins. This is only likely to increase as new suppliers attract staff and volumes increase.

Such cost pressures against a background of furious competition from existing suppliers seeking to build their position in the E-mobility market and new suppliers, who may be free of the burden of legacy costs, mean that for many suppliers’ prices are too low to support margins. In some cases, margins may actually be negative. Established suppliers risk becoming trapped in a vicious circle: they need more business to increase their volumes and strengthen their own market position, but that may mean lower average margins and often higher cross-subsidization from other business areas.

In the long run this is not sustainable and sooner or later consolidations will be necessary – indeed, the first signs of this are already apparent.

Clear strategy required

Supplier optimism is good, but for this to be justified it needs to be supported by a clear transition roadmap. Strategy needs to take account not only of long-term positioning, but also of short-term market conditions and resourcing needs, and the implications for product margins.

Above all, supplier strategy needs to target considered volume increases (whether organic or inorganic) to reach a critical size and achieve necessary economies of scale, and build on and extend skills to enable production start-ups.

Strategy implies coordination and resource allocation. With increasing volumes in a product generation that is not yet fully mature, it becomes vital that all functional areas from development to production work together smoothly and efficiently. It is important to manage limited resources effectively because scaling usually requires high investment, with new production lines and sometimes entirely new production plants. Financing needs to be secured and additional technology and management expertise need to be introduced with care to encourage long-term loyalty to the company.

Correct positioning necessary to seize opportunity

E-mobility is a classic case of opportunity and challenge. Although most auto suppliers are still heavily reliant on combustion engines, they fully expect this will change in the next few years. And despite struggling with low margins and high competitive pressure, most suppliers are confident that they will prosper.

Yet to make this optimism a reality, suppliers will need to position themselves properly and make strategic decisions to strengthen their market position and meet the innovation challenge.

Only then will it be clear whether their optimism is justified.

Berylls Insight
E-Mobility Supplier Survey 2023
Dr. Jürgen Simon

Associate Partner

Dr. Jürgen Simon

Dr. Juergen Simon (1986) is Associate Partner at Berylls by AlixPartners (formerly Berylls Strategy Advisors), an international strategy consultancy specializing in the automotive industry. He is an expert in sales and corporate strategies as well as M&A and can look back on many years of consulting experience.
Dr. Juergen Simon has been advising automotive manufacturers and suppliers since 2011 and has in-depth expert knowledge in the areas of holistic strategy development, business models and commercial due diligence. He also focuses on market entry strategies and topics related to the „Software Defined Vehicle“.
Prior to joining Berylls Strategy Advisors, he worked as senior consultant at the Droege Group, a consulting and investment firm.
As a graduate economist from the University of Hohenheim, he completed his doctorate at the Institute of Management at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) before joining Berylls.