The changing world of automotive repair

By Filum Ho Time of article published Aug 27, 2019

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Johannesburg - Replacing your car’s parts is an activity that, until now, really hasn’t changed much.

But just like with every other part of our lives, technology is set to upend this in a big way - especially in a future world where 5G networks and driverless cars will become more mainstream.

In this world, your connected car will, on its own, communicate through high-speed wireless broadband with a workshop, when it needs a part replacement.

Such a world may still be far into the future, but today’s existing technologies - such as mobile apps - are already starting to spark major shifts in the automotive parts supply chain.

To explain the ramifications of this, let’s take a step back and look at how the traditional parts supply chain worked.

The traditional way of changing your car's parts

Let’s say that your car has been in a fender-bender and you need to replace a few parts. Replacing these parts has traditionally played out like this.

You take your car to a familiar workshop, where a technician takes a closer look at it. The technician, or even the workshop owner, will then pick up the phone and call an auto parts retail shop that they’ve known for years.

The retail shop then phones back and quotes your workshop on a price for the parts your car needs. Finally, your workshop calls you to check if you’re okay with the price and, upon your approval, it buys the part, fixes your car and sends you on your way.

However, with a technological development dubbed “work aggregation systems”, this old way of doing things is already changing.

Enter, stage left, mobile app technology

In the near future, you as a car owner will likely have access to a mobile application, on your smartphone, that provides you with a preselected list of repair workshops that are geo-located and star-rated.

You will be able to browse estimated pricing for your repair and choose the best deal. Once you’ve decided which workshop you’ll go with, you will accept a quote and schedule a visit. The app will send a parts retailer a notification of exactly what’s needed before your car has even arrived on to the workshop floor.

Filum Ho.

The reality is that apps such as this already exist elsewhere in the world. In the US, mobile app OpenBay has swiftly developed a reputation for making it easy for car owners to find, book and pay for repair and maintenance services. In the UK, tech outfit AutoButler is also helping car owners save thousands of pounds, by allowing them to get up to three quotes on their repair and servicing needs.

It’s only a matter of time before South Africans will have access to the same kind of tech.

For the car owner, the new technology will shift the experience from using a tried and trusted long-time service provider, to a less personalised experience. Therefore, it will be extremely important to use a credible platform, with a credible network of service providers, when procuring these services.

Greater integration within the auto sector

Another major trend, helping to shape this new world of auto part repairs, is greater integration within the automotive sector. We’re seeing Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) moving into the aftermarket space and even competing with distributors.

US carmaker, Ford, for example, is actively seeking to capture the market that falls outside of warranty plans, by providing parts and services to this segment.

Parts maker, Bosch, is also competing with carmakers by operating its own repair centres, that target cars that have fallen out of warranty periods.

Even French carmaker, Peugeot, is investing in internet-based auto parts trading platforms, as well as work aggregation apps, in a bid to play in this space.

At the heart of all of this change is technology.

And, if South Africa is serious about embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, then its automotive sector needs to gather around a table, in order to collaborate and embrace this new world.

* Filum Ho is the chief executive of Autoboys.


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