The Retail Motor Industry organisation (RMI) intends to send out a clear message at Automechanika South Africa that the automotive industry will recover from its current downturn.
The organisation will use the opportunity afforded by the exhibition to re-establish confidence levels among RMI members, says organisation CEO Jeff Osborne.
"The RMI believes that the current economic climate and the position in which the motor industry finds itself behoves the RMI to educate and enable its members to survive in these times," says Osborne.
At Automechanika, the association will present a panel of speakers who will discuss the industry's environment and how its participants could avoid closing their operations, as well as manage cost cutting and staff reductions. The panel will present possible scenarios that may offer companies survival techniques until the industry recovers.
Osborne says that companies that deal in automotive components, that may be reeling from the current slowdown, must be ready to tackle a possible increase in business.
The "unprecedented" number of cars that were sold leading up to 2007 are now ageing beyond their service plans and warranties, requiring replacement components.
"Therefore, the market for automotive components may experience growth in the near future," advises Osborne.
He says that components suppliers and manufacturers must position themselves to cope with such an increase in business turnover by having the equipment and the necessary expertise at hand.
The RMI will also consider the skills shortages and the importance of attracting or reattracting career seekers to the industry.
"The automotive sector is viewed as an industry of grease monkeys," says Osborne, however, there are many career opportunities in Information Technology and management and the RMI is establishing a system to attract the right people to the many job opportunities that the automotive industry offers.
Automechanika offers a trade fair of international standing that the South African automotive industry has been missing for a number of years, says Osborne.
The Auto Africa exhibition was originally founded as a trade show. However, with each exhibition, it gradually evolved into a fully fledged motor show. The show was renamed the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) at a later stage.
While Osborne admits that this evolution into JIMS was positive because it drew crowds to the trade show, exhibiting traders expressed their concerns about the fact the show had shifted its focus away from a trade fair.
Therefore, "The RMI is delighted that Automechanika negotiations were successful at bringing the trade show to South Africa. It is giving a trade show back to the motoring sector," enthuses Osborne.
He adds that the trade fair will benefit the RMI's members. It will introduce them to other groups with which they can do business.
There will be a significant international showing at Automechanika. The trade show will expose South African traders to new technology and equipment used in the industry and offer them the opportunity to show their services to potential overseas customers and export channels.
While Osborne is concerned about the economic climate in which the show will take place, he is confident that the interest that was shown at the JIMS will be mirrored at Automechanika.
"The JIMS showed that there is still passion for the industry and that people remain interested even if they are not currently in a position to purchase," he says.
At Automechanika, the RMI will be placing a high profile on its member's consumer focus. It will promote the fact that all its members' training and equipping will benefit the consumer and that the ultimate beneficiary of the RMI's efforts is the consumer, says Osborne.
The RMI's members subscribe to a code of conduct and product offering. The association handles about 7 000 consumer queries every year with a resolution rate of 95%, says Osborne.
He notes that this is necessary because the motor industry is not perceived as having a spotless reputation, which he says has been tainted by a minority.
At Automechanika, the RMI will raise this issue and will highlight the 7 500 traders that are linked to the RMI and consequently to the RMI's code of standards and practices.
The Road Ahead
The RMI is focusing on transforming the informal automotive sector.
There are many individuals involved in informal sector activities who would like to be absorbed into formal structures, receive training and be able to repair vehicles without compromising warranties, says Osborne.
"We cannot lower the industry's standards, we must raise the level of training to meet international standards to ultimately protect the consumer because motor cars are very technologically advanced and must be serviced properly," he emphasises.
The RMI operates an academy for training in a full range of courses related to customer service, such as technical training, sales or switchboard operation, which are offered to the RMI's 7 500 members and to the roughly 400 000 people they employ.
The RMI has injected R5-million to fast-track the equipping of this training academy.
The RMI is a member-owned and driven organisation. Its 7 500 members are supported by six regional offices, which offer solutions to issues and concerns raised by members in the daily running of their businesses.