Car giants are increasingly turning to tech expertise to bolster their boards amid a global drive to push ahead in the fields of driverless and electric vehicles.
According to research by executive search firm DHR International, the number of board members with tech backgrounds at the world's 30 largest car manufacturers rose by 50 per cent, from 22 to 33 directors, over the past year.
But it still marks a small proportion of the overall total: that is 33 out of 325 board members. Despite the addition of 11 new board members with a tech background in the past year, the overall proportion remains relatively low, with 10 per cent of board members having tech experience.
Among the car giants, three per cent have board members from consumer tech firms like Apple.
Current board members with a tech background include Eddy Cue, a non-executive director at Ferrari, who is also senior vice president of internet software and services at Apple. Catherine Barba is an independent director at Renault-Nissan, and previously served as internet director at Publicis.
Earlier this year, Ford named Jim Hackett, previously head of its driverless cars division as its new chief executive, amid plans to improve its position with tech developments affecting the industry.
Frank Smeekes, managing partner at DHR International, says: “Traditional car manufacturers must step up technological expertise to stay at the forefront of automotive innovation, as customer expectations of car tech has rocketed.”
“Having a variety of views and other perspectives from innovative industries at the top car manufacturers will help them better face the challenge of consumer tech giants.”
Expertise in tech, especially consumer-focused, is particularly important to have at a board-level. Executives with such a background will be more likely to support new design concepts, in addition to increased research and development throughout lower tiers of management.