Audi

Held recently in the International Conference Centre in Cape Town, the first forum for the overall motor industry from Messe Frankfurt posted a first for regional areas in South Africa. Promoted as a knowledge sharing exercise to improve body shop networking it has to be said the take on from the Western Cape collision repairers was absolutely dismal. Less than a handful turned out to take on the international speaker line-up which included the worlds foremost futurist, Andrew Marsh who was a headline speaker at the recent IBIS Conference in Munich, as well as in Birmingham, England.  He was introduced to the 60 or so attendees by Joshua Low from Automechanika who said that the company will power ahead with no less than seven new special shows next year in South Africa. This is to keep pace with the ongoing motor revolution that is seeing design dynamics move ahead faster than ever before on electronic, body material design and the maintenance front.

Andrew took centre stage after the no show of Patricia de Lille who did not bother to pitch up for the opening conference. Clearly, she has not learned the most basic rule of sucess is that 90% of it is just turning up.

Anyway, with that disappointment out of the way, Andrew delivered a star studded view of just how complex the world of collision repair is going to develop with all the new innovation of a cut off parts availability falling to just seven years of back up interior trimmed hard parts being envisaged by motor manufacturers he came with an armada of graphics to show aluminium usage increase and the camera – Cemos-Lidar Radar and hybrid models. The trend of massive electrical growth with battery power being constantly improved by all motor makers. A whole new toolroom approach was needed with the adjustment to repair their new technology ranges was not running a two year loop with safety implementation of driver safety devices and video camera telemetry. Far away into the future he predicted that self-calibration of all this electronic wizardry would only be found as far away as 2030.

Nico Vermeulen delivered an overview of the current state of the motor industry in South Africa. He was sad to see that General Motors had taken the decision to exit the market from our shores. He was fairly upbeat about the nation’s ability to remain a major vehicle manufacturer. Talks on e-mobility presented by Barlow Manilal showed how advanced manufacturing was trending internationally.

But perhaps Azar Jamine – director and chief Economist at Econometrix’s  presentation of the state of the sub-Saharan economy pointed the way forward on our local ability to continue as a vehicle exporter and manufacturer. The white population has seen some 191 000 key people leaving the country in the last decade which slowed the purchase of luxury vehicles. Meanwhile the population increase by the black nation had increased by some 11 million coupled with the increase in local life expectancy no less than a quarter of the South African population was now living in Gauteng. This plus the drought has delivered significant downward yield on current GDP statistics. Major currency swings as the Rand-Dollar rate had resulted in a nation emerging from a slight decline but auto exports were once again advancing despite the currency being a total of some 18% lower against the US Dollar resulting in over 25% increases for motorists at the fuel pumps. The practice of the US government and others of quantitive easing to avoid a financial meltdown has seen the US debut rising from US $80 trillion to the huge level of US $250 trillion at current levels. So that is why interest levels remain low on world markets, for few can pay back interest because this wall of paper money has increased in recent times right across the world.

Coupled to this, South Africa holds over 37% of its population as unemployed and just 4% of our local tax paying public funded over 17 million people on social welfare payments each month. Did you know that only 17% of people in South Africa can afford medical aid? “The balancing act for government was a thin line of reducing public spending salaries and containing demands for land redistribution to keep levels of business optimism high in the local market,” concluded Jamine, who remains one of a handful of economists who regularly meet with President Ramaphosa on the best way forward.

Story and pics by Ian Groat