There will probably be five major disruptors in the motor industry in the next few years, says Abdullah Verachia, a global strategist, speaker and facilitator on making sense of disruption.
First, he says, the movement from combustion to electric will become more pervasive.
“We will also see fully-connected digitised cars that do much more than get you from A to B. Cars are becoming spaces to work, to shop online, to watch movies, to connect to medical professionals and more.”
Third is new forms of mobility.
“As we see rapid urbanisation new forms of mobility will become the new normal. These include current options such as Uber, Lyft and better public transport but also sharing applications like ZipCar.”
Fourth on his list is the changing nature of work which, he says, will mean fewer trips and thus less dependence on vehicles, which makes new mobility options more attractive.
And fifth is autonomous vehicles. “Autonomous vehicles are far off in their pure form but will become very prevalent in elements such as highways,” Verachia says.
South Africa vs Industry 4.0
Is South Africa lagging behind other parts of the world when it comes to Industry 4.0 in relation to the motor sector?
Verachia says yes - and no.
“South Africa is particularly great in terms of model launches that align to global cycles. Where we are lagging is in terms of the redefined concept of urban mobility. I was in Munich recently and drove 11 cars through a car app. I was able to drive through multiple cities through seamless mobility.”
He says there are mavericks in the South African motor industry doing interesting things. “WeBuyCars, for example, has transformed the buying industry. They have created a seamless, frictionless car-buying experience.”
He also mentions the Daytona Group, which opened a motoring haven in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg by aligning to the global trend of motor retail being about an experience and not a transaction.
What does the largest retail motor association in South Africa, the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), say about the changing landscape?
Chief executive Jakkie Olivier says it’s challenging the South African motor industry to start assessing their businesses and where they need to be in the next five, 10, 15 years.
“We saw how, almost overnight, the taxi industry was transformed with the introduction of Uber. While not all changes will be as rapid, we need to prepare for the likelihood that these disruptors will become the norm in the not-too-distant future.”
Understanding the possible impacts
He says that understanding the possible impacts is important. “We know that alternative fuels and electric vehicles will affect how vehicles are serviced and repaired. This will have an impact on how technicians are trained and qualified. It will also have an impact on the traditional repair workshop and motor body repair business. Then comes the parts industry. The number of replacement parts in an electric vehicle, for example, is far less than in a petrol or diesel-powered vehicle. Businesses are going to need to be flexible and adaptable or will become obsolete,” he says.
Olivier says the RMI encourage its associations to become immersed in what is happening internationally in their area of specialisation and to engage with stakeholders.
“It is a challenging time for the industry and we can't afford to be left behind. The sector is a major employer with great potential for entrepreneurial businesses.”
Verachia says South Africa is going to have to embrace many changes over the next few years including vehicle ownership which "is archaic". "We have to redefine how the sharing economy challenges the ownership models.”
He says that the Internet of Things and Sensors will allow us to do preventative rather than reactive maintenance. This will be a big step forward in terms of safer roads and responsible driving.
Verachia says the Gautrain is an example of how public transport can redefine mobility.
“The train has become an anchor spine between Tshwane and Johannesburg. We have to amplify this by using the model to provide safe, effective and workable public transport for all.”