Consulting and the Car Industry: Lessons Learned for Tough Times

I was shocked to hear yesterday that the car industry is having a fantastic year—a 50% growth since 2009 kind of good year to be exact.  Huh.  My husband and I haven’t bought a new car in a while and I can’t really think of anyone else who has recently (not counting friends that were forced into a minivan purchase after finding out a little surprise was on her way).  So, I figured no one else was either. Turns out, I was way wrong.

Of course, I love that new car smell as much as anyone but this figure totally surprised me. To be fair, 50% growth is a cumulative number. The industry is still digging out of a Grand Canyon-sized sales dip that accompanied the financial crisis. But, by anyone’s yardstick, 50% is damn good.

No doubt, there were some external factors in the global economy that helped create the climate for positive growth in the US market.  But there were some highlights in this NPR piece around what the American car makers did-- what’s new and what changed—to make the most of the rebound opportunity.  As I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were some parallels to be drawn with federal consulting. Maybe it’s a stretch but a couple of things are worth considering.  Car makers…

  • Recommitted to quality.  Seriously?  Wow.
  • Refocused their business on customers and making the cars they wanted to buy—not just the cars they wanted to sell (trucks and big SUVs because of higher profit margins). 
  • Got supply in check. Prior to the financial crisis, car makers were making too many cars and driving down prices and profit. 

Simple, right?