Automotive E-SSENTIALS

Your regular update for technical and industry information

Your regular update for technical and industry information


For the last two and a half years, Stefan was Head of Mobility at TÜV SÜD America, responsible for strategic and operational business development for connected and automated driving, and homologation for vehicles, systems and components in the Americas region. Now he is coming back to Germany as Global Head of Automotive.

With a master's degree in Systems Engineering & Management, Stefan has 11 years of international management experience in the automotive sector. He has lived and worked across Germany, China and the USA, gaining a lot of know-how relating to regulations and compliance issues in multiple markets.

In this interview, Stefan answers questions about trends to look for in the Automotive Industry, challenges for bringing new vehicles to global markets and his goals for this new role.

Stefan Merkl, TÜV SÜDWhat are your new responsibilities as Global Head of Automotive at TÜV SÜD and why does this role appeal to you?

S. Merkl: As Global Head of Automotive I am now responsible for leading the global Automotive business at TÜV SÜD. This includes the fields of homologation of vehicles, systems and components, as well as our emission laboratories in Germany and the Czech Republic.

My current work enables me to support the automotive industry, bringing new technologies safely and securely to market. I particularly like the frequent customer contact and supporting them to bring their product to the market in accordance with regulations, standards and guidelines. Working with different cultures in an international context has always appealed to me. I also enjoy working with a great international team, full of genuine personalities, to generate solutions.

You have gained insights into various markets so far, and for the last two and a half years you have been working in California and Michigan. How does the automotive market in the U.S. and Europe differ in terms of homologation?

S. Merkl: There could not be two more different markets in terms of the homologation system. The automotive regulatory system in the EU requires third-party technical service, such as TÜV SÜD, to assess mobility technologies for conformity with the relevant safety, security and emission standards. Once the designated technical service determines that a vehicle, automotive system or components compliant, it then issues a report that serves as the basis for a certificate of compliance issued by the approval authority. 

In contrast, the U.S. operates under a self-certification system that places the responsibility for demonstrating compliance directly on the OEM. The OEM conducts an evaluation and then attests that the vehicle or vehicle component complies with applicable requirements, before placing the product on the market.

Automotive regulations in the U.S. are based on Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Developed and enforced by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), FMVSS mandate minimum safety performance requirements for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment manufactured or imported to the U.S.. Specific requirements in FMVSS may differ from comparable EU standards, meaning that OEMs seeking access to the U.S. market may need to demonstrate compliance with additional requirements.

Working in both the U.S. and Europe has given me a deep insight into these two very differently regulated automotive markets, enabling me to understand customer needs better when it comes to helping them minimise time to market.

What can you take from your international experiences into your new role as Global Head of Automotive?

S. Merkl: Working with different TÜV SÜD divisions on a global scale has enabled me to develop an extensive network of colleagues, business partners and governmental institutions. In addition, becoming familiar with a variety of cultures and behaviours has helped me to appreciate what motivates different people and companies. This has exposed me to better understand customer needs, the characteristics of the world's most important automotive markets, and global automotive trends. We will leverage on this to further enhance our services we provide to our customers. Our homologation services will increase its leading position and enable customers to enter the global vehicle market. We will continue to expand into international markets and exploit our global teams of experts to offer product certifications covering worldwide automotive markets such as Europe, the USA, China or Korea. We will also focus on new energy vehicles such as electric or hydrogen vehicles, as well as new technologies such as autonomous driving - TÜV SÜD is already a leader in these areas, and we will continue to expand our global position.

What challenges does the automotive industry face in the area of homologation and how do new technologies influence the homologation processes?

S. Merkl: There are a wide variety of challenges that the global automotive industry faces. Firstly, there are a lack of harmonised standards and regulations across international boundaries. This means that the different regulatory requirements of each individual target market must be identified and applied to a vehicle, system or component. OEMs must therefore understand and apply the different homologation systems of each country or jurisdiction. For example, the different approaches I talked of previously between the requirement for self-certification in the U.S. versus the EU mandating that third-party service providers must assess conformity with the relevant regulations and standards.

Moreover, we are seeing constant updates to existing regulations and an ever-increasing number of new regulations coming through. This gives OEMs and automotive suppliers the headache of keeping up to date with a very volatile regulatory landscape, where the rules are changing continually as each country introduces different market access requirements. This requires an effective management process and a high level of expertise to keep track of all current and future regulatory changes, to avoid high costs associated with redesigns or product recalls.

 Lastly, regulations and standards cannot always keep up with the pace of innovation. Thus, it can be challenging to bring new technologies to market due to a lack of relevant regulations and an undefined homologation process.

How do you plan to respond to those upcoming challenges and support your customers to bring their new technologies on the road?

S. Merkl: TÜV SÜD has a global network of experts in all major automotive markets. Our local experts are well versed in both domestic and international regulations. As we understand the evolving requirements and overlaps of multiple regulations and standards, we can perform a gap analysis to identify potential non-conformities of a customer’s product at an early stage. We can then help our customer to close these gaps, as well as undertake the full scope of testing and homologation process and all communication between their business and the local authority.

When it comes to new technologies such as autonomous driving, TÜV SÜD is one of the leading experts in bringing new technologies safely and securely to the road. For example, we have developed and successfully applied an AV conformity framework to a variety of automated mobility solutions across the world, most of which have already been approved by authorities for use on public roads. The support we offer our customers is built on state-of-the-art safety standards, such as ISO 26262. However, we go beyond standards as we also consider SOTIF, cybersecurity and fail operational systems through a holistic safety and security assessment method that is specifically tailored for automated vehicles.

“We are ready to serve our customers to help master the key trends of new energy vehicles and autonomous driving with our services.”

How is your team involved when it comes to developing new homologation processes and regulations according to the new mobility trends?

S. Merkl: We are actively involved with international and EU standardisation bodies and organisations. This includes IAMTS and UNECE working groups, as well as TÜV Verband, which aims to improve the technical and digital safety of vehicles, products, systems and services through independent assessments. We also work directly with several governments to create the framework for digital approval and the vehicle inspection process for the vehicles of tomorrow. As we are fully aware of future regulations, we can continuously adapt our safety inspection methods.

What value proposition do you want to convey to future customers in your role?

S. Merkl: TÜV SÜD is dedicated to supporting our customers in overcoming the challenges presented by new technologies and non-harmonised/absent regulations and standards. We will help them to understanding and managing the evolving global regulatory requirements and certification processes to seamlessly achieve global market access. This in turn reduces development costs and time-to-market by avoiding last-minute product adjustments to comply with the specific country homologation requirements.

We will therefore continue to focus on our internationalisation strategy, alongside our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction - acting as an independent solution partner along the whole v-process-model and value chain.

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