Magna International CEO Swamy Kotagiri says electrification is a ‘marathon’ not a sprint

Electrification is accelerating, but it will happen over time, said Swamy Kotagiri, CEO of Canadian supply giant Magna International.

“It’s not a switch on, switch off type scenario,” Kotagiri said during an Automotive News “Congress Conversations” webcast Thursday.

“The key lies in how do you develop a strategy that is modular and scalable? We always looked at it as a marathon, have the sustenance to stay in the race rather than try to address it as a sprint.”

Kotagiri took the helm of the company in January. He offered some advice for industry incumbents and new entrants as they navigate various industry trends, especially the shift toward EVs.

“If you are clear about where you bring value and how you are able to fill the gaps in your value stream and most importantly, stay agile and be ready to pivot,” he added, “I would say those are the important aspects to stay relevant in the industry going forward.”

Magna, North America’s largest parts supplier, has been particularly bullish on its EV product development with partners over the past year.

The supplier announced a partnership with Israeli startup Ree Automotive earlier this month. Magna also formed a joint venture in December with South Korea’s LG Electronics, and last fall, Magna said it will build Fisker Inc.’s electric Ocean SUV.

A healthy diet of partnerships is just one way to capitalize on the fastest growing mobility trends, Kotagiri said.

“Once we decide what is important in this value stream, we decide: what do we have intrinsic within the four walls of Magna,” Kotagiri said. “In some cases, it is alliances and joint ventures and partnerships. With this ecosystem, the way it is changing at the rate at which it is changing, you need to have a combination of both.

“How do you develop your strategy so you have the ability to pivot as necessary but stay at the table?” he added. “I think it’s a balance of those two themes that we have to constantly keep in front of us.”

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