For the very first time IBIS Africa was held online as a virtual conference and exhibition space. Some 200 delegates participated in spirited debates and enjoyed a wide variety of talks via click through links.
First up was Jason Mosely, CEO IBIS, to give an overview on the markets that are in flux because of international shutdowns. The second session saw Eric Devos, the president of GiPA, Martin Hendriksen, MD and Brett Atkins, production director of Clear Strategy Group from South Africa who set the scene with stats on the local repair market. There are close to 12.7 million vehicles and one in seven experience vehicle damage. There are 2.6 million LCV’s and 350 000 taxi operators with 80% of drivers enjoying an older vehicle. Of the accidents that occurred, over 55% were drivable or needed minor cosmetic repair. Surprisingly they note that around only 12% of SA accidents were declared and many informal operators contributed to the overall financial well-being of the accident repair business in South Africa.
Les Minton from the Institute of Automotive Engineers and Assessors (IAEA) presented an overview of what the 2017 Salvage Code agreement had produced for global markets which was a relaunch to overcome theft and cloning problems being experienced across European markets. He went through the various assessed damaged vehicle codes and the complex end-of-life vehicle directives. The need to overcome environmental issues and the legislation of these codes of practice are in many ways covered by SASA in South Africa to some degree including the contentious low 45% write-off levels for vehicles which the trade say are unmanageable because of the South African market and geographical location when dealing with multi-mix material construction now seen in all the new vehicles in production across the world.
Thomas Avon, Admiral Group UK, expounded theories about customer experience and demand changes being encountered in the body shop business with new vehicles like electric hybrids and others taking future business in a different direction. A projected 96 electric model of variants will be offered by 2025 in the UK. Parts for repairs have accelerated in cost over the last five years by 51% and the repairer of tomorrow will need to investment in more equipment and increase training if they are to survive.
Graeme Reid, Lightstone, gave a spirited talk about the many current features that are playing out in the local market with shut down graphs and market recovery statistics to show that some progress in business confidence was underway despite the anticipated 60% fall out and the liquidation prospects in view. With the projected 50% unemployment level, business was currently down 50% on previous levels in 2019. During the lockdown period drastic moves towards consolidation may be on the cards, with reduction of staff as an inevitable cost cutter for the road to recovery for body shop survival.
Lucian Jantjies, national sales leader, Axalta Coatings Systems South Africa, introduced the latest low energy, sustainable technology from Standox. This low energy consumption refinish range drastically decreases energy bills and vehicle throughput times. From start to finish, it cuts the whole repair in half when you talk about time.
WorldSkills was capably discussed with Jason and Bajith Panday, MD of the Guru Group of Learning, along with Namibian WorldSkills champion 2019, Sandu Panduleni, who went to a specialist SA school for his training and expertise to get extra work experience.
The debate continued with Jason, Steve and Ian thereafter. Steve Kessel, operations director CRA, in the final session painted a picture of rampant work steering being condoned by insurance companies to major towing and body shop conglomerates in South Africa in a situation that was becoming clearly visible and is definitely detrimental to long term sustainable business. Certain groups with questionable quality of the customer’s end product were enjoying huge vehicle repair volumes, while other well organised stand-alone business operators are struggling with very low volumes with these questionable practices of market capture in accident repair taking place.
Ian Groat, publisher of Automotive Refinisher, went on to explain that currently the government had ramped up petrol and diesel to levels of 70% stealth tax – so out of every R1 you spend, 70c is tax. He highlighted the fact that the Third-Party fund was in tatters and that cross subsidisation for welfare projects and pensions had to come from somewhere. This is possibly why fuel has seen alarming tax increases in just three years. When viewed against the government’s constant focus in appointing those who are not necessarily qualified or blatantly corrupt, it could be said they have completely shut down the engine that powers free enterprise in the country – mostly that of small business. Covid-19 has merely highlighted the enormous cracks of very poor governance and implementation of our education and health systems. It remains to be seen if our leaders can find logic, honour and best way forward for the sake of small business and the nation as a whole.
By Ian Groat