Economic View

On learning from supply chain challenges and the development of other segments

To what extent have recent disruptive global events impacted the supply and demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in the Middle East?

UPPAL: Although events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine have had an impact on supply and demand, companies that believe in the long-term potential of EVs must remain steadfast in their approach to the market and learn from unexpected disruptions. As such, GM remains committed to its strategy of zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion as defined in 2017. The pandemic presented unique opportunities to redefine mobility experiences on a global scale. Despite creating unforeseen challenges, the pandemic also presented a significant opportunity for transformative change.

Although widely perceived as a setback, the pandemic actually prompted a reconsideration of how progress could be accelerated. For example, GM came to realise the need for better vertical integration across businesses, supply chains and different operational areas.

The pandemic shed light on vulnerabilities in the automotive industry’s supply chain and overall value chain, compelling market players to consider comprehensive strategic overhauls. Focus turned to the importance of proximity in supply chains – not only for operational efficiency, but also for sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint in the process.

While short-term hurdles impacted the ability to deliver automotive products promptly, these lessons were leveraged to create a blueprint for an automotive supply chain and value chain ecosystem that will prove beneficial in the long run. In essence, the disruptions catalysed the development of a more resilient and sustainable EV ecosystem.

Where do you identify the main obstacles to the rollout of autonomous vehicle technology?

UPPAL: Embracing obstacles is intrinsic for any company that is committed to being at the forefront of innovation and reshaping mobility, and this is what defines General Motors. Challenges must be seen as opportunities for learning and improvement. Safety is paramount. We are always looking ahead to anticipate obstacles, and overcome them in a manner that builds trust with our partners, regulators and the broader community.

The narrative around the speed of adoption might create scepticism, but we can draw lessons from the aviation industry’s century-long journey. The evolution from manual to fly-by-wire planes illustrates a continuous commitment to safety, making air travel the safest mode of transport.

Autonomous driving technology is currently at an early stage and we can draw insights from other industries. It is also important for innovators to collaborate closely with the relevant regulatory authorities to ensure alignment on safety issues. For example, GM’s collaboration with entities such as Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority is based on a shared vision of introducing technology while prioritising safety.

Autonomous driving technology will ultimately create a safer society by alleviating congestion and ushering in an era of error-free driving. The journey toward autonomy is not about speed but ensuring progress with a steadfast commitment to safety. As such, stakeholders must take the necessary time to guarantee the technology’s absolute safety.

What factors will contribute to the growth of electric and autonomous vehicles in the Middle East?

UPPAL: Several factors contribute to the region’s favourable conditions for the adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles. The region’s burgeoning young population demonstrates a readiness to embrace evolving technologies and the presence of modern infrastructure is a significant advantage for the Gulf. The region’s contemporary urban centres allow for collaborative efforts with forward-thinking leaders and urban planning regulators to seamlessly integrate technology into evolving cityscapes.

An illustrative example of GM’s role in this evolution is the initiative mapping the Jumeirah area of Dubai for autonomous driving. This initiative not only facilitates the use of our autonomous technology but also provides invaluable insights applicable to global scaling efforts.

The region’s distinct operating environment, characterised by young and rapidly developing cities, introduces unique challenges that, when addressed collaboratively, accelerate technology adoption. Experiences in addressing these challenges can offer valuable lessons that can be adapted to other emerging markets such as East Asia and India, enhancing global rollouts.