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Laid-Off Tech Workers Are Just What the Auto Industry Needs

New vehicles are so software-centric that Detroit could become the biggest winner as Silicon Valley sheds jobs.

General Motors headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

General Motors headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

Photographer: Anthony Lanzilote/Bloomberg

While the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is best known as an annual excuse to marvel at outlandish gadgets, Dirk Hilgenberg, head of Volkswagen AG’s software unit, came to this year’s show in early January looking for a different kind of tech product: software engineers.

The 58-year-old German auto executive turned his CES booth, a colorful stack of shipping containers, into a makeshift hiring hall with the words “JOIN US” emblazoned across the side. His unit, dubbed Cariad, has quintupled its headcount, to about 6,600, since its formation in July 2020, and Hilgenberg is hoping to hire an additional 1,700 people this year. To lure attractive candidates, he’s taken a liberal approach to remote work and made English Cariad’s de facto language—a concession for an automotive behemoth built on proud German engineering. Cariad’s goal, as he told a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter, is “tapping into the talent and experience pool of US companies.” He was using the show as a jumping-off point for his recruitment campaign. “The time couldn’t be any better,” he said.