Hold the ex­cite­ment about global car in­dus­try changes

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - JEFF OS­BORNE — Sup­plied. Jeff Os­borne is head of au­to­mo­tive at Gumtree SA.

AC­CORD­ING to a re­cent in­flu­en­tial and widely pub­li­cised re­port from PwC, three ma­jor trends — elec­tric cars, self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles and ride shar­ing — will gen­er­ate rad­i­cal dis­rup­tive change in the global au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try by 2030.

The au­thors of the re­search also high­light two con­se­quent phe­nom­ena from these trends: there will be more ve­hi­cles but fewer own­ers and more traf­fic but it will flow bet­ter.

This all sounds dra­matic and very fu­ture for­ward but I would cau­tion against ex­trap­o­lat­ing too much from PwC’s EASCY — The Five Di­men­sions of Au­to­mo­tive Trans­for­ma­tion re­port into the next dozen years of mo­tor­ing in South Africa.

In fact, I sus­pect the au­thors may even be well ahead of them­selves even in terms of the United States and Europe where they’re still very much at the early adop­tion phase of most of this stuff, and the com­plete re-en­gi­neer­ing of the in­dus­try, and sub­se­quent mass adop­tion, will take longer than most sus­pect.

Here the bar­ri­ers to a quick up­take of elec­tric ve­hi­cles, for in­stance, are ob­vi­ous. We don’t trust the debt hole that is Eskom to keep the lights on, let alone to keep our cars run­ning.

Most SA ve­hi­cles do dis­tances that Euro­pean driv­ers could never com­pre­hend — bat­ter­ies will need to re­li­ably de­liver well over 300 km with­out recharge be­fore most of us would head off down the N1 from Gaut­eng to the Cape.

And the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture roll­out across the na­tion has not yet even be­gun.

Hy­brid ve­hi­cles are a par­tial so­lu­tion but they re­main ex­pen­sive and top end in our mar­ket.

It’s also worth not­ing that sec­ond hand ve­hi­cle sales in SA are nearly dou­ble that of new ve­hi­cles each year, so yes­ter­day’s tech­nol­ogy will last a long time into to­mor­row’s world.

As for self-driv­ing cars, we sim­ply will have to wait and see. There’s a hor­net’s nest of reg­u­la­tory is­sues — in­clud­ing the alarm­ing thought that se­cu­rity ser­vices around the world want driver­less cars clas­si­fied as po­ten­tial weapons — to be re­solved, even as­sum­ing that the tech­nol­ogy is re­li­able and af­ford­able enough to roll out into mass own­er­ship.

We will have to check what emerges in key test mar­kets abroad be­fore even con­tem­plat­ing their in­tro­duc­tion here. I give that at least 10 years.

One area high­lighted by PwC where we have seen a fast take-up is in ride-shar­ing. SA was a very early mar­ket for Uber and grew here at a rate, among a very nar­row band of users, that was among the fastest in the world for that com­pany.

I sus­pect that was due to the paucity and in­se­cu­rity of public trans­port in our ur­ban ar­eas and the gen­er­ally di­lap­i­dated na­ture of the ex­ist­ing taxi ser­vices.

In terms of long-term im­pact on ve­hi­cle own­er­ship, the rise of ride-shar­ing might put a small dent in first time car buy­ing by var­sity stu­dents but I doubt there will be much more.

In first world mar­kets like Mel­bourne or Copenhagen or New York, it is both trendy and prac­ti­cal to forego ve­hi­cle own­er­ship and source a mul­ti­plic­ity of al­ter­na­tive op­tions.

In our mar­ket, the dis­tances even in ur­ban com­mut­ing are pre­scrip­tive, public trans­port is abysmal, park­ing is far less at a pre­mium, and ve­hi­cle own­er­ship re­mains as­pi­ra­tional, es­pe­cially for the up­wardly mo­bile and ex­pand­ing black mid­dle class which, hope­fully, our econ­omy will con­tinue to gen­er­ate.

I am not doubt­ing that the PwC re­search au­thors are right that the trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­ogy that’s now avail­able is hugely ex­cit­ing in its im­pli­ca­tions and mo­men­tous changes are afoot in the in­dus­try.

But, for the next 12 years in the real world of South African roads, I sus­pect its more “same old, same old” than brave new world.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.