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Automotive Translation Goes High-Tech

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Computer on WheelsOn 11 November, Daimler hosted an Automotive Translation Roundtable organized by TAUS and berns language consulting. Translation managers from eight large automotive and three large IT companies participated in the one day meeting. Goals for the day were to get the pulse of the translation sector and learn from each other. What do we have in common? Where do we differ? It comes down to this: we are not so different. And what’s more: we must work together across the translation sector to create a common ecosystem. 


We Are All In This Together

The main takeaway of the Automotive Roundtable is the picture – a ‘selfie’ if you like – taken by all participants of the state-of-affairs in the translation sector. The brainstorming resulted in three strongholds and six weaknesses and a reverse balance when looking forward: eight opportunities and four threats. See the full picture here below.


  1. We know the business
  2. We have a lot of data
  3. We have good control over the processes


  1. How do we make sense of all the data?
  2. We are too inward-looking
  3. Processes cannot be changed quickly
  4. Quality review is a bottleneck
  5. Lack of flexibility, we are reactive rather than creative and proactive
  6. Technology is fragmented


  1. We can get better in managing the business, e.g. pricing, implement QM metrics, transparency (see all other opportunities)
  2. We can make more use of MT and use it in innovative ways to create new business opportunities
  3. We can improve translation by controlling the quality of the source
  4. Project managers should become more business oriented
  5. We should focus more on usability (on customer needs)
  6. We have an opportunity to work together with industry peers to influence the ecosystem, which may result in changing strategies, new business models and more business intelligence
  7. We should use the business intelligence we gather and act on it
  8. Our focus should be on faster turn-around and agile management


  1. How do we keep up with the speed of change in content?
  2. Can we change our management style and technique fast enough?
  3. New technologies cause disruptive change in the industry
  4. The adoption of MT can lead to a degradation of the notion of quality

In summary, what it is telling us: we need to learn to be less inward-looking, more focused on the users and less on controlling the process. We need to become more proactive. This requires a change in roles and management style. We need to be open to joining forces with industry peers, to create an ecosystem with less friction and use business intelligence.


An article published by McKinsey in the past week under the title How the convergence of automotive and tech will create a new ecosystem strengthened our view on the innovative power of convergence. Let’s face it: automobiles are becoming computers on wheels. The merging of high tech and automotive worlds has already begun. Customers choose their new cars not just because of the hardware (the engine) and the design, but more and more also because of the latest innovations in connectivity, infotainment, self-driving and electrification. McKinsey observes that technology players are making their way into the automotive sector and predicts that a new complex ecosystem will emerge as a result of that.

Just like the IT industry, the automotive industry will have its app stores with libraries of applications from third parties and operating systems that control the self-driving capabilities. Data gathering and analytics will become essential to managing and improving the customer satisfaction. Entertainment platforms are an extension of the home entertainment systems. By entering the automotive industry, the high-tech sector breaks up the traditional vertically controlled supply chains. High tech companies will probably dominate niches in the future automotive ecosystem.

Convergence is a strong driver for innovation. As TAUS predicts in the Translation Technology Landscape Report the translation industry will be entering an era of convergence. Innovations have already begun, for instance with the combination of speech and translation technology, the blending of freemium and paid business models and the disintermediation because of the convergence of platforms.

An interesting perspective came up in the discussions of the roundtable meeting: automotive companies are behind on the IT companies when it comes to automation and innovation of translation processes. This, if it is true, leads to the simple conclusion that automotive companies should copy and catch up with what others have done before them in the software localization industry. We believe it is not as simple and straightforward as that. Translation for the IT industry is equally under pressure and has very similar strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The TAUS Automotive Roundtable put the finger on what may very well turn out to be the wisest conclusion: we need to work together with industry peers to influence the ecosystem. This may result in changing strategies, new business models and more business intelligence. A more horizontal and collaborative approach to addressing the challenges of increasing volumes of dynamic content in ever more languages is the only way forward. 


TAUS has started an industry consultation on an innovation roadmap for the translation industry in the next five years. We invite everyone to submit ideas. See the link to the program here.

Jaap van der Meer founded TAUS in 2004. He is a language industry pioneer and visionary, who started his first translation company, INK, in The Netherlands in 1980.  Jaap is a regular speaker at conferences and author of many articles about technologies, translation and globalization trends.

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