How has technology impacted the automobile industry?
Technology has tremendously transformed the automobile industry from just a products manufacturing sector to a services-driven industry. Initially, it was producing and selling vehicles but that has changed. Beyond selling, there is distribution and after-sales services such as repair.
Particularly how or which parts have had significant changes?
Every time a vehicle is put on the market, the end users are always expectant and want to see a difference. Vehicle manufacturing alone has greatly become electronic and you will find that we no longer have the crude engines. Vehicles have become so electronic and the market is so trend driven.
Is it the reason why it is now difficult and expensive to get a manual vehicle?
Partly yes. But again most vehicle parts such as automatic crush detectors, the break and the stabilizer systems, among others, have become so electronic. This is totally different from the vehicle that we had about 30 years ago. Look at the airbag system which has become so electronic. Therefore, with such systems that are highly hi-tech, manufacturing an electronically – accentuated manual vehicle is increasing becoming expensive.
You mean these systems cannot be intergrated into a manual system?
They can, but it becomes very expensive and could be a hard sell because most customers don’t consider the cost input of the product (manual car).
Isn’t it risky that we are getting into an era where the vehicle has more control than the person driving it?
Definitely everything has its other side but the point here is making life easier and less costly and that is what technology delivers. Why would someone buy a manual car where they are going to struggle with gears yet there is one that can automatically engage them?
They (drivers) will tell you “I need to be in control”.
It is true but any manufacturer looks at satisfying their target group. Manufacturers continuously study their customers and they will at all times seek to satisfy that group. Therefore, it is no longer about who is in control but who is buying.
Talking of the repair mechanics hasn’t it become expensive given the crude nature of our repair industry?
Ideally, I think it is finding someone with the right diagnostic tools. The challenge though is many mechanics have not upgraded from the crude to the computerised repair system. Thus, vehicle owners need to be careful on who repairs their cars.
But aren’t there few mechanics with the knowledge and capacity to diagonise and repair computerised vehicles?
It is true. But there are two things we need to understand here. Most of our vehicles can still be repaired in the low end garages but those driving the latest models will definitely have to search for the right mechanic. Ideally, the repair market will slowly move to new levels because there is no way it can afford to stay backwards. In a few years, I predict, it will be hard business for mechanics that won’t change.
Has there been any noticeable adaptation of new technology in mechanics industry so far?
Yes. We have moved away from just having a spanner. You need to have more than that. Most of these garages have started acquiring diagonistic equipment because every day they are getting customers that require up-to-date diagnostic technology.
Secondly, if you have been keen enough you will realise that someone else will diagonise the problem before another (mechanic) takes over the real repairs. This is the stage where you will know the type and cost of equipment.
Do these technological changes have any disaantages?
Well technology is a fast moving sector and every time people search for how they can become more efficient. And in such circumstances, at every stage, there is demand for less in terms of labour force. Therefore, just like in all sectors, technology replaces jobs. However, beyond the jobs, mechanics must start thinking forward and get acquainted with new technology in order to stay relevant.
But it is also expensive!
It could be but in the long run it will get cheap because the systems are getting more and more integrated. Therefore, even with the rapid movement in technology there will be some controls that will allow end users to adjust.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR