Kotagiri, 51, brings his know-how as former chief technology officer, as well as from leadership roles in other areas of the company, and “will continue to advance Magna’s position in the changing mobility landscape,” Chairman William Young said in a press call last week.
Kotagiri’s experience nearly rivals Walker’s. He has more than 25 years in the industry, 21 of which have been spent at Magna.
As he prepares to become one of only a handful of people who have held the title of Magna CEO since its founding in 1957, Kotagiri said the future will require focus and prioritization. It will require “reading the tea leaves,” he said.
“The question is, how many initiatives do we pick that we can successfully follow through? I think it’s going to be the most important thing for us to retain our focus.”
Just a week before Walker’s retirement news, Magna announced plans to supply the electric vehicle platform for Fisker’s Ocean SUV, a significant foray into the future of electrification. Magna is in talks to do similarly with Canoo Holdings.
Will developing such vehicles worry customers that Magna aspires to become their competitor?
“The short and clear answer is no,” Kotagiri said. “We don’t want to be an OEM. We’ll continue to communicate that and clarify that. We bring a different value proposition to the table, like in the case of Fisker, and we continue to do it with our existing customers, too.
“We look at the gaps and look at the trends and see where we need to be looking and what’s strategic for us, whether it’s cities and research institutions or Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv,” he added.
Kotagiri said changes in other industries and among consumer habits have started to make an impact on the automotive and mobility worlds.
Those changes “will bring a new set of players possibly. That’s something we have to be aware of and be able to react, either through our own capability or through partnerships and alliances and so on,” he said.
“The mobility market is changing. We can’t turn the ocean. We’ve got to pick our battles and opportunities.”