New research commissioned by ABB Robotics and Automotive Manufacturing Solutions (AMS) reveals mounting challenges for the automotive industry, driven by the surge in energy costs across Europe and escalating labour rates in the US.

According to ABB Robotics’ second annual barometer survey of the automotive sector, more than half (53%) of European respondents identified rising energy costs as one of their top three concerns, compared to 38% in Asia. Meanwhile, in North America, 63% expressed rising labour costs as their primary worry, likely exacerbated by recent union negotiations securing substantial pay hikes.

Joerg Reger, Managing Director of ABB Robotics Automotive Business Line, said: “Increasing labour and energy costs were prominent in our second annual survey.”

The survey also examined the feasibility of transitioning to pure electric vehicle (EV) production, revealing a decline in confidence from 11% to 8% among respondents who strongly believed in meeting the legislative timetables. More than half (53%) expressed doubts, up from 59% the previous year, with concerns over key skills shortages, particularly in EV and battery expertise.

Daniel Harrison, Automotive Analyst at AMS, highlighted the industry’s apprehensions regarding skills shortages, stating, “As EV production accelerates, the need to upskill or redeploy existing colleagues and attract new talent becomes critical.” He emphasised the necessity for additional efforts to address these skill gaps.

To tackle this challenge, ABB Robotics has invested in outreach programmes in collaboration with educational institutions worldwide, aiming to equip students with automation and software skills essential for future smart manufacturing. Their IRB 1090 education robot, endorsed by, is designed to facilitate student learning in robot programming fundamentals.

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Supply chain disruption due to global instability emerged as another pressing concern, with over a third (35%) of respondents highlighting this issue. Notably, North American respondents (51%) cited it as their top manufacturing challenge, reflecting the impact of component shortages and production delays.

The survey, drawing insights from nearly 400 industry experts across various management and engineering levels, provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges facing the automotive manufacturing sector.