Peter Wells, professor of business and sustainability at Cardiff Centre for Automotive Industry Research, says the global automotive industry has entered a period of unprecedented boundary dissolution.

Professor Wells is participating in a panel discussion at Shift Automotive. He says that barriers to entry are being eroded along with the old certainties of what it meant to be a car manufacturer, or even what constitutes a car. We asked him the challenges for the automotive industry.


New intermediaries are threatening to capture the relationship with consumers and exploit huge new revenue opportunities. Paradoxically, it is the automotive industry that is also leading this transformation: Some car manufacturers will become the architects of their own nemesis.

What does your work entail at Cardiff Centre for Automotive Industry Research (CAIR)?

We have researched the economic, strategic and sustainability aspects of the global automotive industry for 30 years. We have worked on every point in the value chain, from steel and aluminium supply through to end-of-life vehicle recycling. Our research has taken us from Iceland to New Zealand, and many points in between. We combine rigorous, critical, academic research with provocative thought leadership. We advise on government policy, and pursue projects funded by prestigious research agencies at national and international level, often in collaboration with others.

Can you give some concrete examples of this?

Currently we have the following projects underway:

• A H2020 project on encouraging car sharing in the EU, with international partners, in which CAIR contributes an analysis of business model innovation and performance;

• a UK-funded consortium project to establish the recycling of electric car batteries in which CAIR contributes analysis of the economic and business aspects; and

• a privately funded project to forecast when the entire sales of selected markets consist of electric cars.

Who should come to your panel session and why?

Anybody who is working in this ambiguous, fluid and dynamic boundary zone between the traditional automotive industry and the industries with which it is now engaging including new mobility service providers, connectivity specialists, suppliers in, for example, innovative machine interfaces, and those interested in participating in the long-term future of automobility.

How important is it to have a platform like the Shift Automotive in order to foster thought leadership in these fields?

In this historic moment, it is imperative that the automotive industry finds new ways of reaching out and communicating with new partners that have distinctive skills and capabilities. As the boundaries start to crumble the industry really needs strategies to manage the transition from product to service, from car to mobility, and from linear to circular revenue. Shift Automotive is precisely such a platform.

Photo: Peter Wells – Professor at Cardiff Centre for Automotive Industry Research