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Thanks for analyzing this interesting topic. I resonate a lot with what I experienced previously in auto industry. The similar part is that a global supply chain and market presence can make company very vulnerable to exchange rate fluctuations. On the one hand, short-term political incidents can drive fluctuations that are challenging for companies to react quickly with its pricing strategy. On the other hand, difficulty of predicting long-term exchange rate makes it really tough to make such desicions such as where to invest for the next plant. In my previous job, we have monthly exchange rate projection for the next 5-10 years flowing through to the porgram financials, which often significantly impacts the profitability and some times might change the direction of decision completely. Such challenge further amplifies with several stakeholders across the value chain. I agree with your proposal to lobby with government, although it will be a very challenging task to do.

On November 28, 2017, Amanda commented on Impact of News Digitalization on Democracies :

It is a very interesting and sensitive topic. While democracy is highly valued in this country, it is interesting for me as a foreigner to see how people’s attitude changes with the latest trends happening globally with extreminism. For me the question is whether technology is neutral and what role are tech companies supposed to play in politics. Answers to these questions will have many specific impacts, such as how tech companies plan to share data with government, or what are the assumptions in the algorithms behind AI. If tech companies are supposed to fight against extreme content on their platforms, then the question becomes how them draw the line between extreme content vs. content that is different from American values. Given that these tech companies are usually operating their platforms globally, what stand should they take when it comes to conflicts of ideology between two countries? How should they deal with goverments from different countries?

Thank you for the great essay, Lawren! It is a very interesting topic as I think about this change is related not just to business decisions of the companies, but also related to changing general public’s attitude about fashion and lifestyle. It reminds me of the Japanense brand “Muji”, which is famous for its simple yet elegant design as well as quality products. They have beautiful stores as well where one can feel a strong sense of simplicity walking into them. Such idea of having a simple life is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and has become a strong trend even within Chinese young customers. Keeping only few quality things that are essential to life has become a fashion or even lifestyle statement by many young people in Japan or China.

I do see the potential to make this change in customers in other markets as well. But I personally think new brands, such as Muji, rather than the existing fast fashion brands will have more incentive to push for this trend, as they usually charge a price premium for quality products to compensate for less volume, which makes their business case viable.

On November 27, 2017, Amanda commented on Pioneer of “Last-mile” Autonomous Delivery in China :

Thank you for the interesting topic and artical, Maple! It is very exciting to see the Chinese e-commerce companies starting to use advanced technologies to transform its business and improve efficiency. As you said, regulation might be a challenge going foward. To add to that point, currently Chinese government doesn’t have regulation in place yet for autonomous vehicles testing on road, which might impact how fast can expand its practice outside the university. Another potential issue in the future is how the labor can be rearranged if really get replaced by robots one day. The delivery people is a huge group of people in China right now who makes a decent salary doing this job. To avoid potential social risks, government will need to think about how to upgrade the labor as they upgrade the industry. Finally, I wonder why chooses to develop their own autonomous vehicle ilo. partnering with or leasing from others. What are the business and strategic considerations here?

Thank you for the interesting aritical! It is exciting to see how Audi is making revolutionary changes to its manufacturing line with the concept of Industry 4.0. It seems to me that so far the practice is still more at experimenting phase to test out the feasibility of the technology.

From business perspective, there are two elements that I am curious to see going forward. First, how does the business equation look like with increased investment in automation and reduced cost of labor. Does it have a profitable business case to justify the investment? Second, how such smart factory upgrade decison time table might differ from country to country given the different levels of labor cost. At country level, will the relatively high labor cost in developed countries end up becoming the driving force for industry upgrade and, as a result, helps developed countries to lead again in the next era of industry 4.0.

On November 27, 2017, Amanda commented on Volkswagen’ s New Electric Strategy :

Great essay to highlight the issue of life-cycle emission of electric vehicles when the general public’s perception is that electric vehicles are absolutely cleaner than traditional cars. It is interesting to think about that making an industry cleaner cannot rely just on effort at company level with changes in product/manufacturing strategy, but it also relies heavily on the strategy across the supply chain as well as infrastructure by the government. Another interesting thing in the essay is that VW’s strategy invloves much leverage globally both at supplier level and at assembly level. This seems to make the issue even more challenging for VW as different governements might have different level of incentives to push for renewable energy. One additional perspective I am thinking is how the nature of investment in auto industry, which is heavy upfront capital investment, impacts the decision making process for VW to come up with such aggressive product strategy and correpsonding investment shift. Is the balance between being clean and being profitable a tough choice?