Are you ready for change?

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With aspects of the motor industry evolving at a rapid pace, Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the RMI, outlines the need for preparedness in dealing with technological advancement

Much of what we considered to be science fiction 10 years ago has turned into today’s science facts. According to various experts and futurists, we will witness a hyper-connected world by 2020 with, as we speak, nearly six billion people already “always on.”

We will interact with internet platforms through augmented reality, virtual reality or via intelligent digital assistants and robots, with predictive algorithms helping to prevent crime and driving our cars. The prediction is that by 2020, the world will be automated and übersmart, with everybody benefitting. Or will they?

The advancement of medical science means that all of us are living longer than before. This means the earth and the world’s economy has to sustain more people for longer. It also means that consumption of goods and services will improve, which should stimulate wealth creation. Or will it?

Gerd Leonhard, futurist and celebrated author, states in his acclaimed work Technology vs Humanity: The Coming Clash Between Man and Machine (2016), that the scale of change caused by recent unforeseen events such as Brexit will be miniscule when compared to the impact the avalanche of technological advancements will make in reshaping the very essence of humanity and every aspect of biological life on planet earth.

What does this mean, at granular level, for our industry? Well, primarily we will witness the migration to alternative sources of propulsion for motor vehicles. Electric and hybrid cars, engines fed by hydrogen fuel cells and artificial intelligence will shape the form and function of motor vehicles over the next five to 10 years.

To some extent the reality is already evident and South Africa will not remain unaffected. Are we ready for change – or are we merely adopting a “wait and see” approach?

I believe that technological advances in the automotive sphere will have an almost immeasurable impact on the way we run our businesses and equip, tool and staff our workshops and motor body repair shops. Fuel stations, too, will be affected due to a substantial reduction in the use of petroleum-based products as a means of propulsion, while insurance companies may see a significant reduction in the uptake of products due to a decrease in risk associated with self-drive motor vehicles.

The message is clear: The impact on the auto industry might be much more than what we think or contemplate currently.

Motor vehicle manufacturers and retailers will also not miss out on these developments, with global consumer attitudes changing towards shared driving and non-ownership. Internationally, we are witnessing a downward trend in vehicle ownership amongst millennials – most of them believing that the advent of mobility solutions such as Uber has overtaken the need for vehicle ownership; especially when cost of ownership and ease of use is considered, not to mention the hours and hours of unproductive time spent in traffic.

Consumers – and millennials in particular – are much more demanding today with regard to buying needs and are following technological changes almost without exception. Are we ready to attract and keep them as our customers?

Where will these changes leave us as the RMI – the collective voice for the retail motor industry? The key to surviving and thriving will require appropriate retraining of our human resources and the innovative rejuvenation of our workplaces, continuously adapting and making sure that our businesses are ready at any time.

Therefore, we will need to gear our day to day very smartly to be able to instantaneously supply goods and services as and when new technology in mobility hits the market. In this respect, the RMI will play a leading role in advocating and moderating change, in close liaison with various stakeholders, with a view to helping today’s entrepreneurs survive and thrive in an industry that feeds the nation.

As always, Belonging is Better Business!


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