By Filum Ho, CEO Autoboys
Replacing your car’s parts is an activity that, until now, really hasn’t changed a lot over several decades.
But just like with every other part of our lives, technology is set to upend this in a big way — especially in a future world where 5G networks and driverless cars will become more ubiquitous.
In this world, your connected car will, on its own accord, communicate via high-speed wireless broadband with a workshop when it needs a parts replacement.
Such a world may still be far into the future, but today’s existing technologies — such as mobile apps — are already starting to spark major shifts in the automotive parts supply chain.
To explain the ramifications of this in more detail, let’s take a step back and look at how the traditional parts supply chain has worked.
The traditional way of replacing your car’s parts
Let’s say that your car has been in a fender-bender and you need to replace a few parts. Replacing these parts has traditionally played out like this….
You take your car to a familiar workshop, where a technician takes a closer look at it.
The technician, or even the workshop owner, will then pick up the phone and call an auto parts retail shop that they’ve known for years.
The retail shop then phones back and quotes your workshop on a price for the parts your car needs. Finally, your workshop calls you to check if you’re OK with the price and, upon your approval, it buys the part, fixes your car and sends you on your way.
A traditional and tangible relationship may have put you as the car owner at ease, dealing with a longtime trusted mechanic to deliver good service and use reputable parts.
However, with a technological development dubbed ‘work aggregation systems’, this old way of doing things is already changing.
Enter stage left, mobile app technology
In the not-so-distant future, you as a car owner will likely have access to a mobile application on your smartphone that provides you with a preselected list of repair workshops that are geo-located and star-rated.
You will be able to browse estimated pricing for your repair and choose the best deal. Once you’ve decided which workshop you’ll go with, you will accept a quote and schedule a visit. The app will send a parts retailer a notification of exactly what’s needed before your car has even arrived onto the workshop floor.
The reality is that apps such as this already exist elsewhere in the world. In the US, mobile app OpenBay has swiftly developed a reputation for making it easy for car owners to find, book and pay for repair and maintenance services. In the UK, tech outfit AutoButler is also helping car owners save thousands of pounds by allowing them to get up to three quotes on their repair and servicing needs.
It’s only a matter of time before South Africans will have access to the same kind of tech. And for workshops and parts suppliers who don’t embrace technology in this way, they’ll find themselves out of the game.
For the car owner, the new technology will shift the experience from using a tried and trusted long time service provider to a less personalised experience. Relationships, which for a long time formed the basis for trust, will be replace by the number of likes, CSI and ratings. It will be extremely important to use a credible platform with a credible network of service providers when procuring these services.
Another major trend helping to shape this new world of auto part repairs is greater integration within the automotive sector.
We’re seeing Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) moving into the aftermarket space and even competing with distributors.
US carmaker Ford, for example, is actively seeking to capture the market that falls outside of warranty plans by providing parts and services to this segment.
Parts maker Bosch is also competing with carmakers by operating its own repair centres that target cars that have fallen out of warranty periods.
Even French carmaker Peugeot is investing in internet-based auto parts trading platforms as well as work aggregation apps, in a bid to play in this space.
All these developments are going to fundamentally change the automotive sector as we know it.
At the heart of all of this change is technology. And if South Africa is serious about embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, then its automotive sector needs to gather around a table in order to collaborate and embrace this new world.
By doing this, we can only work to strengthen local competition, empower consumers and generate more innovative growth opportunities in the sector than ever before.