The recent announcement of a R10bn investment by Daimler in the Mercedes plant in East London shows optimism for the local automotive industry. Picture: MOTORPRESS
The recent announcement of a R10bn investment by Daimler in the Mercedes plant in East London shows optimism for the local automotive industry. Picture: MOTORPRESS

The South African motor industry is in a state of flux as it waits to hear the government’s final master plan for the industry for the period 2020-35. An announcement is expected later this year.

In the meantime, Nico Vermeulen, executive director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), will cover aspects of the broader automotive industry’s past performance as the foundation for growth and development in the medium to longer term when he addresses delegates at the Cape Automotive Forum in October.

The two-day conference, supported by Automechanika and organised by Messe Frankfurt SA, takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on October 17 and 18, alongside a co-located exhibition of automotive after-market products and service providers as well as commercial vehicles.

"We have linked this insightful conference and exhibition to our Automechanika automotive after-market trade fair brand to stress its credibility and value to the South African motor industry," said Tracy Gounden, show director for the Cape Automotive Forum.

Vermeulen’s presentation will include a focus on doing business in Africa and opportunities for growth that exist in SA’s neighbouring countries.

Vermeulen, who was appointed director of Naamsa in 1982, has walked the long road with the industry as it rose from being an sector with a complete domestic focus until the current situation where it exports more than half its annual production to destinations around the world.

He serves on a number of relevant organisations, from the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Nedlac, Business Unity SA and the Motor Industry Development Council.

A topic closely related to that of Vermeulen’s is the state of the South African economy and its effect on the automotive sector. Econometrix’s view of the economy will be presented by one of its economists, Azar Jamine. He focuses on in-depth research, reporting and analysis of the macroeconomic environment with specific attention paid to consumer-impacting variables.

Unemployment is linked closely to the health of the economy and here the organisers of the forum have obtained the services of Florus Prinsloo, the lead in the Western Cape government’s Apprenticeship Game Changer programme, to give his views on this subject. Prinsloo has been involved since 2004 with skills development after a previous career in marketing and sales in the mining industry.

He will speak on the way in which the Western Cape government is ensuring there are sufficient, appropriately qualified technical and vocationally skilled people in the province to meet the needs of prioritised economic growth areas.

There is ongoing talk as to whether or not electric vehicles will become a significant part of the vehicle mix in SA in the short to medium term. Hiten Parmer, director of the national electric mobility programme’s mandate of multistakeholder engagements across the public and private sector, will discuss global activity in the field as well as the latest technological advancements and what SA is doing to adopt the technology.

Andrew Marsh, of Auto Industry Consulting in the UK, will set the scene as he describes how the motor industry is changing faster today than in the past 100 years, driven by electrification, autonomous driving, shared mobility, connectivity and legislation.

"With these inevitable changes come a whole host of challenges, including how the automotive after-market service industry will prepare for this change and develop the necessary skills-set," says Marsh. He will outline how he sees the automotive sector in SA in the short to medium term and how business owners can ensure they are equipped to deal with changing needs in this sector.

Craig Parker, research director for Africa at global growth consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, will discuss how dealerships and other retail automotive outlets need to adapt to meet the changes in the consumer journey in a digital world.

"The always-on connected consumer is driving online purchasing across all sectors, including automotive," says Parker. "This buying behaviour has reduced the need for traditional, static dealership showrooms, retail franchises and even, to a degree, repair workshops. The automotive after-market has also been affected with an increase to a trend towards DIY repairs with the ability of end-users to source parts and accessories online. Frost and Sullivan predicts that by 2020 business-to-consumer sales of automotive parts will reach R250bn annually."

Says Gounden: "We are pleased with the calibre of speakers at forum, which is a must attend event for people involved in SA’s motor industry."

Please sign in or register to comment.