An evolving and greener automotive industry could prove challenging for South Africa’s manufacturing and after-service sectors, said industry experts at the 2011 South African Automotive Week, in East London.
South Africa has committed itself to reducing its carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and moving towards a greener transport industry would have to be key in achieving these targets.
Speaking at the event, Toyota South Africa CEO Dr Johan van Zyl said that climate change was a reality and that the automotive sector was spending tens of billions of dollars every year on research to develop greener vehicle options.
In fact, Optimal Energy CEO Kobus Meiring said that market forecasts predicted a strong uptake of greener vehicles in this decade already. He said market forecasts showed that electric vehicles could make up between 10% and 25% of total vehicle production by 2020.
However, Volkswagen South Africa CEO Dave Powels believed that the uptake of electric vehicles would not quite reach Meiring’s predictions in the next ten years.That said, the industry would definitely see new and lighter materials being developed.
“The next-generation of cars will be lower in weight and will definitely have lower fuel consumption, but I do not think that there will be a massive percentage of electric vehicles on the roads in the short space of ten years,” he noted.
Van Zyl anticipated a more hybrid transportation model.
Either way, Naacam head Roger Pitot said that South Africa could be left behind when it came to manufacturing capacity for these “greener” components, as well as the aftercare that was needed for such vehicles.
Pitot warned that this could see the country importing components and again losing out on localisation, which is currently integral to the country’s drive to tackle the high unemployment situation. He added that South Africa might have to consider a lower-technology manufacturing model.
Nevertheless, Pitot pointed out that the ‘green’ industries had been identified as a “sunrise” industry by the South African government and that it was an area with significant growth potential.
But if the country did not respond to and acquire new technologies, it would be left behind. Concerns around the country’s manufacturing capacity in terms of greener components were already being raised, he said.
Powels noted that there would be a big gap in training and equipment knowledge that also needed to be addressed.
Meiring said that the biggest challenges facing the evolution of a greener vehicles market included delays, indecision and bureaucracy.
He added that a green vehicle manufacturing industry could see South Africa generate $7-billion a year in export earnings and would create 10 000 direct, sustainable jobs.