in Translation

The global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted a diverse range of industries and sectors, and the automotive industry is no exception. According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, the global COVID-19 pandemic has split the auto industry into three parts: North America, Europe, and China. While sales in North America and Europe are still weak, auto makers with ties in China have posted strong sales numbers. Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla, which has a significant presence in China, has added $14 billion a day to its valuation and surpassed Toyota in early July to become the world’s most valuable automaker.

Although Tesla’s recent successes may seem like hype, electric vehicles are poised to substantially alter the automotive industry in the future. With the recent introduction of game-changing technologies such as cobalt-free batteries, EVs are now more competitive with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in terms of cost and performance. The introduction of cobalt-free batteries is significant because it means EVs will not only be less expensive to operate than ICE vehicles but also less expensive to buy, challenging ICE vehicles’ dominant position in the automotive industry.

Despite the potential of EVs, if manufacturers fail to take advantage of new markets and opportunities, such potential is wasted. According to LMC Automotive analyst Jonathon Poskitt, “Those manufacturers relatively more exposed to China will be in a better position—or not as bad a position—than those where their footprint is skewed away from China”. A recent report by McKinsey further emphasizes China’s market potential for international BEV (battery electric vehicle) companies. Although Chinese companies currently dominate the Chinese market, McKinsey predicts that in the future international companies will gain greater market share as cost structuring will shutter several Chinese BEV companies.

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To gain access to new markets and new opportunities, electric vehicle manufacturers should ensure that some of their unique product features are adapted for new cultural and linguistic environments. Moreover, with a growing push for interactive, user-friendly documentation, sophisticated onboarding and troubleshooting materials are likely to present a new area of opportunity. For example, Tesla’s S, X, Y, and 3 models all include a fully searchable owner’s manual that is accessible on the car’s touchscreen. If this feature becomes more widespread in electric vehicles, the touchscreen manual must not only be translated accurately in a variety of different languages, but will also need to be designed to ensure that foreign language text is appropriately formatted to fit the screen. Such rigorous requirements closely mirror those of traditional software and mobile app localization.

In addition to ensuring that product features are well localized, electric vehicle manufacturers will also need to design websites and marketing material that are appropriately contextualized for the target market. This is especially critical for the electric vehicle industry, where countries with large numbers of internet users, such as China and India, also have significant market potential for electric vehicles. For example, in 2019, China had 854 million internet users, while India had 560 million users. Lack of marketing localization to such countries can lead to poor sales, or in some cases, product recalls, costing companies millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Localization needs are not only limited to product features and marketing, but also include the electric vehicle supply chain.  Establishing a robust and efficient supply chain is critical to delivering electric vehicles on time. Some electric vehicle manufacturers have been plagued by lengthy delivery times due to supply chain production shortages. One way some electric vehicle manufacturers have tried to decrease wait time for customers is to shift parts of the supply chain or entire factories closer to the target market. In order to successfully shift components of the supply chain to different countries, electric vehicle manufacturers will need to provide effectively translated and localized e-learning and training courseware for workers so operations can proceed smoothly and safely.

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Although the global COVID-19 has impacted many industries, including the electric vehicle industry, opportunities exist in certain markets for electric vehicle manufacturers to recoup losses. Capitalizing on such opportunities requires well translated and localized vehicle manuals, websites and advertising, and employee training materials. With a global network of expert linguists, subject matter experts in 250+ languages, and experience working with the automotive industry, CSOFT International has the expertise to help electric vehicle companies capture current market opportunities by providing consistent and accurate translation and localization services in product design, marketing, and supply chains.

 

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