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Digital already disrupting global auto industry

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The global automotive industry and many related facets of the business are changing rapidly as the digital revolution causes major disruption. This makes it essential for motor businesses to adapt or die.

This message came through loud and clear at the biennial CAR Conference held at the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit as part of the SA Festival of Motoring last weekend, where the overall conference theme was “Consumer Trends and Disruption: How SA automakers can drive the change required to adapt to a new future.”

The arrival of self-driving autonomous cars sooner rather than later was also a topic for many of the speakers.

Martyn Briggs, an industry principal of Frost and Sullivan in the United Kingdom and one of the keynote speakers, presented on the topic “Megatrends and the future of mobility”, an area of the industry where he is an expert. His address was an ideal scene-setter for the intriguing series of presentations that followed.

Much of what Briggs told the delegates was admittedly about future developments but he also had plenty of facts and figures about what was happening right now in terms of ride sharing, car sharing and ride hailing apps as well as the increasing use of apps to assist in finding a parking space in congested cities.

Briggs went on to explain how digital dealerships using small showrooms in shopping malls, with only one or two cars on display and doing business online, were proving increasingly successful in the UK. He predicted that this trend is expected to spread worldwide.

Briggs added that most people now know exactly which car they want to buy by the time they entered the relevant dealership and on average only visited the dealer only twice when doing the deal to buy a new car.

Briggs said that car design is another aspect of the automotive world that is being influenced by the changing digital landscape and the manner in which more and more vehicles are being used these days. This is resulting in the so-called trifecta design proposition whereby traditional body styles like hatches, sedans, MPVs and SUVs are being crossed and morphed to make hybrid designs. Examples here are the Suzuki SX4 and Tesla Model X.

Shayne Mann, the managing director of Mann Made, a brand experience company, summed up the rapidly changing automotive landscape when he said: “Technology is disrupting every industry worldwide and motor retail is not going to be spared. Disruption is coming – from online retail to driverless cars – and those who don’t learn to innovate now will find themselves left behind.”

Mann, who has already been involved in developing virtual automotive showrooms for local dealer groups, offered sound advice and examples of how dealers can catch the wave and start innovating faster.

He says that It’s “time to reboot!”; it is not necessary to throw away the expertise and physical footprint offered by traditional dealerships, but rather to re-imagine their role in an uncertain (but exciting) future.

Chris de Kock, the managing director of WesBank, the country’s leading vehicle finance house and the main sponsor of the SA Festival of Motoring, continued in the same vein about the need for change. He said that the current linear process of buying a car – search, sell, finance, buy – had to change as it was inefficient, did not offer a personalised experience and was expensive for the customer.

De Kock said WesBank was mulling the various disruptive technologies that will deliver the desired experience to the customer. Options include Platform Business Systems, Blockchain, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things.

The need for change was reinforced by Dave Duarte, the founder of Treeshake, a consultancy dedicated to growing digital marketing capability, who also served as the master of ceremonies at the conference.

He set the scene by explaining that the growth towards a digital world in South Africa was driven by the fact that the number of active website users in the country, which now numbered 18-million people, was already double the number of cars on South African roads.

Other thought-provoking statistics that  were put on the table by Duarte were that 45.9% of 1 000 people surveyed in SA would be willing to buy a car online and that  only 17 people out of more than 4 000  interviewed in another survey said they were satisfied  with the current car buying process; all the others wanted change.

Duarte warned dealers that quick responses were necessary when dealing with potential buyers online. “They are not prepared to wait long for feedback to queries.”

The founder of Treeshake also explained that buyers of new vehicles were using general websites such as Gumtree when buying a new vehicle and not only using these sites for buying used vehicles. This trend has resulted in many dealers now using Gumtree and similar online websites to advertise both new and used models.

Delegates to this well-attended conference, which enjoyed backing from Gumtree, Tracker and Sasol, were certainly not left in any doubt that the digital world was the way to go if they still wanted to be in business in the future.

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Jaguar charges South Africa

Jaguar, in partnership with electric vehicle charging authority GridCars, has laid the foundation for the future of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in South Africa with 82 new public charging stations in the country’s major hubs and along frequently-travelled holiday routes.

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The R30-million infrastructure investment will make day-to-day travel, as well as longer day trips and even very long journeys possible for owners of electric vehicles, such as the soon to be introduced Jaguar I-PACE. With a range of up to 470km depending on driving style and conditions on a single charge, an I-PACE will comfortably fit into most drivers’ lifestyles, whether it’s commuting to and from work on a daily basis, or travelling the long distances required for inter-city holiday destinations.

In addition to the publicly available charging stations to be installed in customer parking areas at every Jaguar Land Rover retailer in South Africa, a total of 30 public charging stations will be erected at various points of convenience, such as shopping centres, in the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.

South Africa’s city centres will now also be connected by the Jaguar Powerway – a series of 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London.

Richard Gouverneur, Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa said:“As Jaguar we are proud to be setting the pace for the new generation of electric vehicles in South Africa. The launch of the Jaguar Powerway demonstrates our commitment to electrification technology and the future of mobility in our market. This new network provides peace of mind to our Jaguar I-PACE customers who can now experience more of their world with less range restrictions.”

The majority of charging stations on the public network will be 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes for Jaguar I-PACE owners. A charge from 0 to 80% will take around 72 minutes.

Every charging station will also be equipped with a 22kWh AC fast charger to accommodate plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). The AC standard Type 2 socket will allow charging of all EVs currently available in South Africa. The DC charger is fitted with the CCS DC type socket used by the vast majority of EVs in SA.

Jaguar Land Rover owners will use an RFID card to activate the charging station and manage electricity billing to the card. Cards can be credited with simple EFT payments, much like cellphone airtime top-ups. Charging station electricity rates will also be discounted by 25% for all Jaguar Land Rover EV or PHEV owners.

Like petrol, the price of electricity fluctuates, but for now the rate for 1kWh on the card will be between R3 and R3.50 depending where in South Africa it’s redeemed. With a 90kWh battery, a full recharge in an I-PACE will cost between R270 and R315 – a fraction of the fueling costs of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

The entire Jaguar charging grid and Powerway is expected to be operational by the end of November, 2018. The Jaguar I-PACE will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2019.

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Merc challenges students to pitch digital innovation

Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has partnered with the LaunchLab to offer a pitching opportunity to students and professionals in South Africa.

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The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge will target interested students and professionals to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advance manufacturing as well as relevant industry topics, as identified by Mercedes-Benz South Africa. The challenge spans various focus areas – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, machine learning, Industry 4.0 and many more.

The two partners are well-matched to create this unique opportunity for innovative South African talent.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a proud history and heritage in South Africa spanning more than six decades. Being part of the global Daimler network, a company with a track record in innovation and pioneering spirit of over a century, will offer the successful participants access to expert input and guidance.

The LaunchLab, a cutting edge, mixed-use business incubator based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, will facilitate the challenge which will run from August to November 2018. LaunchLab’s mission is to facilitate valuable connections between strategic partners and startups in order for Africa to develop into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that accelerates entrepreneurs to a new level.

The Ideas Programme is intended primarily for students and young professionals to validate their innovative ideas and concepts in the manufacturing environment. At the end of the process successful participants from the students and professionals, stand the chance to win various prizes and if selected have the opportunity to work on a proof of concept with Mercedes- Benz South Africa.

To book for this information seminar, visit https://launchlab.co.za/ideas2018.

Submission requirements: Participants should submit an entry form with a 3-minute video explaining their business idea on the LaunchLab website:

http://www.launchlab.co.za/ideas2018.

The deadline for submissions is 28 September 2018, thereafter, a shortlist of candidates will participate in an ideas bootcamp to further refine and validate their ideas. A group of finalists will then be selected and will then in November have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers.

LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available for download here:

https://launchlab.co.za/innovationchallenges/competition-terms-conditions/

“MBSA has partnered with the LaunchLab as part of our continuing efforts to contribute to youth development, the economic growth and sustainability of the country as a whole. The areas that the challenge is focusing on are key to our continued growth and success as we operate in a highly competitive space,” says Andreas Engling, CEO and Executive Director Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

“The LaunchLab is very excited to have joined hands once again with Mercedes-Benz South Africa on the Ideas Challenge. This is another example of a well-known multinational company seeing the value of engaging with the start-up ecosystem and we are very pleased to be able to facilitate the interaction between these two groups to leverage the strengths of both, for mutual benefit. This is an awesome opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” says Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab.

Throughout the challenge, progress and news will be shared online and on social media platforms, using the hashtag #LLIdeas2018.

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