U.S. automakers are having a tough time of it right now. Their business model is facing unprecedented challenges and they are now at a crossroads. The American Amish community is saying, “Tell me about it.”
The Amish community is in a state of significant change, as this New York Times article illustrates. Their traditional family farm economy can no longer sustain their growing population, and as a result, they have been forced to make difficult decisions. Perhaps surprisingly they have been able to create new opportunities for themselves, and have done so in a way that provides lessons for the troubled U.S. auto industry.
1. Don’t be afraid to learn new skills
Computers, mobile phones, televisions – all things we all take for granted. All things the Amish have lived without. But as they slowly integrate into modern society they’ve begun to pick up skills previously alien to them. The auto workers – and management – may need to learn some new skills as well if they want to have a future.
2. Stay true to your roots
The Amish have been very deliberate in the integration, sticking to small business industries where their traditional skills have real value. Carpentry, textiles and baked goods are all areas where the Amish have authentic brand equity. The U.S. auto industry, when it was at its best, made really exciting cars for 47-year men who wanted to be 18 again. Beautiful lines, raw masculine power and a little danger. Tap in to those great design roots.
3. Don’t be something you’re not
Any interest in signing up for that Amish SEO company? How about an Amish fast food joint? Me neither, there are other people who do those things better. There are auto manufacturers who make better high end performance sedans (BMW) and better high end sports cars (Porsche). U.S. automakers shouldn’t try to be all things to all people. Trucks, family sedans and mid-life crisis cars probably represent a pretty healthy demo.
I have a great belief in the ingenuity and work ethic of America. The Amish are proof of what can be done when you accept the realities of the marketplace, but still stay true to your beliefs.