I've been thinking the same thing since the thread got started. Thank you for saying it better than I could have.
My experience has been that in every industry the bean counters get handed the stick and they start by cutting labor costs. Doesn't matter really what you are making, its always easier to cut the high paid workers operating under the assumption that cheaper is better.
This has been going on since the 1970s in cycles, it just appears to be endemic to the culture today. Its popping up everywhere.
I worked an 8 year contract for missile defense that did a lot of great work for the government. When the time for recompete came up, the new wave of procurement people decided to make a name for themselves by getting more for less. They published a "recommended" grade / pay structure for the proposed follow on contract that was so low that none of the incumbent companies could man it so we all passed.
The "winning" competitor was a California company that was in the middle of a huge downturn in their business. They told their engineers that they had the choice of hitting the bricks or packing up their crap in a U-Haul and moving to Colorado to work the new program. At a 25 percent pay cut.
Needless to say, all of them who could get another job did so and the team that showed up in Colorado was not as technically sound as it might have been. Within six months, the same government contracting guys were begging the incumbents to come back and work the program but it was too late. The team had moved on.
The government decided that cheaper and commercial was better. Fired the "too expensive" incumbents and went with a team that had never built a satellite and a program management team who's primary credential was they were cheap. A few billion dollars down the toilet later, they had to dig themselves out of a huge hole and go back to the incumbents.
As alluded to above, in the 70s and 80s the "robber barons" bought weak companies, raped them and threw them away along with their people.
The people that are getting kicked to the curb are fully capable of adopting new technologies. And personally I don't see a wave of new tech sweeping through any industry. Things that involve human health and safety are very evolutionary and not revolutionary. Safety regulations, engineering standards - and the market place, all make it a requirement to take certain, safe steps to a better product.
I the main, people don't yet WANT electric cars. People want big trucks and SUVs. The industry is adding technology to increase fuel economy across the fleet so they can keep selling big trucks and meeting federal CAFE standards. But the buyers are not lining up demanding give me more mileage. Give me a bigger screen. Let me tow more crap. Make my truck cooler than that other guys truck. Add a fully articulated and featured tail gate for crying out loud.
Having observed the lifecycle of an engineer for over 40 years I have seen the "cycle" repeated about every five years. The economy picks up, engineers get hired. There are not enough so they get paid more. The companies raise their pay to retain them. (in the 1970s and 80s we got raises every six months!) Their pay goes up, and up and up while the business is good. Then an election happens. The opposition party comes into town. The flow of funds gets redirected. The economy crashes. The product stops selling. Now all these "over compensated" senior types need to get flushed so the businesses can "do more with less". So they say "your skills are no good any more" and you are out the door.
Its all BS. The vast majority of engineers are problem solvers. Just about any problem. They are more than capable and happy to learn new skills and new technologies.
Saying "well, you are ten years out of school so you know nothing" is total crap. Martin Marietta as an example published official documentation that stated that they needed to get rid of the highly paid engineers cause they cost too much. And acknowledged that their ability to do real work would decline.
The other challenge faced by businesses today is the new crop of engineers did not grow up in a time when work ethic was highly valued and taught in the home and at school. Todays kids know how to put a condom on a cucumber but cant spell or do math. They want to have their phone so they can communicate all day long and post to all their sites. When I started every engineer at Boeing went on the boards. Drawing. Learning the design process from the BOTTOM up. At Martin, you were not allowed to have COFFEE at your desk because you might spill it on engineering product and damage it. You punched a time clock in the morning and when you left at the end of the day. You wore a shirt and tie, had a pocket protector to hold your pens, carried a slide rule and took two breaks plush lunch. Period.
Try that today with the current crop of non-competitive snow flakes. It gets you nowhere.
Its the big money brains and the HR people who make these decisions and all they are interested in is making a profit for 3 years, punching their ticket and moving on to a bigger more important job and their yacht.
If people really wanted electric cars, then there would be electric cars. They don't really want them and they are not really practical yet. Short commutes or slow trips from one charging station to the next in good weather on nice roads. Try commuting to work when its 11 below like it was here last week and there is a foot of snow on the ground.