Meet the people who help our clients design and build innovative technology solutions to benefit their businesses as well as their customers: our subject matter experts aka SMEs. In this series, we’ll discover how they came to work in the industry and the changing role of technology in our lives. We’ll also get a glimpse into what makes them tick as people outside of work.
Up next is Tony Whitehorn, Consultant and SME for the Automotive industry, who is based in our London office but mostly working from his Reading home since the pandemic. Mobility is a hot topic for Tony, not just all the ins and outs of developing, manufacturing, and selling cars, but he also knows how to stay mobile on skis.
Hello Tony, let’s start with some insights into your work life. What has brought you into the tech industry and the automotive sector?
The automotive sector is changing, like most other industries, but with significant speed. This is being led by technology, which has resulted in porous boundaries in an industry that had been very siloed and extremely traditional for the longest time. So, to be part of that technological revolution, which is changing the entire global automotive industry, is incredibly liberating and exciting.
What has been the biggest innovation since you have been working in the industry?
The internal combustion engine has been around for more than 100 years. To be witnessing the transition to electrified vehicles in the next 10-15 years is revolutionary. Whilst it will change our environment as well as the way we drive, its impact on the industry will be significant in terms of the supply chain, retailing, cost base, and a dramatic move towards the digitalisation of the motor vehicle.
What is the biggest challenge or opportunity you are seeing, and what should businesses be doing to prepare for this?
Car manufacturers are not making any money out of electrified vehicles. They’re having to focus on monetising the car over a longer period of its lifetime to compensate for the fall in profit from the vehicle sale. This will require greater flexibility and agility on the part of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and significant entrepreneurial skills to digitally interact with customers to leverage revenue opportunities.
What is the Endava project you are most proud of and why?
The Personal Digital Car Assistant (PDCA) app is a great technology to keep the driver involved with the car and the OEM or retailer in a close personal relationship with the driver. It’s predictive in terms of potential breakdowns, interactive with retailer service departments to organise bookings, and it monitors the customers’ preferences to provide them with potential purchase suggestions, like accessories, service plans, and insurance. The app also provides all the necessary information about the car via voice activation and AI. It is a key application which supports OEMs and retailers’ profitability and a great digital tool which significantly helps the customer.
On the flip side, what is the project or technology that challenged you the most and where you had some setbacks? What did you learn from this?
I was instrumental in setting up a digital store in a UK out-of-town shopping complex in 2012. It was a global first for purchasing a brand-new car entirely online. It was tough because it was the right technology but a bit before its time. Today, many people would be happy to buy a new car online, but in 2012 the general public hadn’t even fully embraced Amazon, let alone buying a new car without seeing it first. Through that experience, I learnt to take account of the environment and people’s tastes and preferences rather than purely the technology.
Now, let’s finish with some more personal questions, shall we? If you were not working as an industry consultant, what would you be doing instead?
I always wanted to be a “Blue Peter” presenter (Blue Peter is a British children’s magazine TV programme). I applied for the position in my early 20s but failed dreadfully – I thought it was the end of any career ambition… Despite this setback, the automotive industry has been great to me, and if I wasn’t a consultant, I would still be working with a car manufacturer I expect.
What topic could you give a 20-minute presentation on without any preparation?
I am a Christian, and I feel that Christianity has too much “bad press”. I would love to present on the relevance of Christianity to society today. It isn’t a set of doctrines; it is a way of life that focuses on a dynamic relationship with a “higher being” and everybody else with whom I come into contact. Hopefully, you can tell I am very enthusiastic about it, but not in a weird way…
What was something you thought would be easy until you tried it?
I thought water skiing would be simple. I have been skiing since I was 10 years old – my dad is Swiss, so that helped – but with snow skiing, you must lean forward; water skiing is all about leaning backwards!! My nose and chin were a right state after continuously “face planting” for about an hour. Never again…
Finally, would you share a favourite quote with us to send our readers off with some inspiration?
It’s rather a personal mission: “Be the best version of myself.”
Many thanks to Tony for sharing these interesting facts and stories with us. Stay tuned for more insights into the work and life of Endavans in the next part of our Meet the SME series!
ConsultantTony has worked in the automotive industry for more than 35 years, holding senior positions with Renault, Toyota and Hyundai. He is passionate about helping businesses succeed through collaboration, embracing change and empowering their people. Tony helps our clients to assess their readiness, navigate the necessary changes and start to build on their vision of this future as it relates to mobility ecosystems. When he isn’t working, he loves playing and watching sport, volunteering with his church and spending time with his family.
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