Industry leaders and analysts gathered at the Futuroad CEOs’ Breakfast where the future of the commercial vehicle aftermarket came under the spotlight recently.

The event, held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit under the theme ‘Commercial Vehicle Aftermarket’, is one of a series of thought leadership breakfasts hosted for the automotive sector by Messe Frankfurt SA.

Industry experts, including Craig Parker, research director for Frost & Sullivan Africa, Menzi Nkonyane, senior research analyst, Automotive Insights, Truck & Bus for S&P Global Mobility; and Duane Newman, partner at EY, shared their insights at the event.

Messe Frankfurt SA managing director, Michael Dehn, described the local automotive industry as a “powerhouse” contributing 4.9% to GDP and employing more than 110 000 people.

“It’s a major export industry, and a key driver of innovation across Africa,” Dehn said.

Drawing on data from the United States, Europe and China, Newman described five trends in the automotive sector. He said the sector would have to contend with regulatory pressure; macroeconomic and inflationary deterrents; evolving societal expectations, and tight labour markets.

These would force commercial vehicle manufacturers to introduce low-carbon-emission technologies and optimise costs and capex.

“The industry requires a proactive approach towards improving fleet profitability through technology, together with a focus on sustainability and collaboration to enable autonomous trucking,” Newman said.

Nkonyane, of S&P Global Mobility, shared insights into the challenges facing truck and bus production. These included overcoming economic and structural obstacles, where navigating challenges such as sluggish economic growth and currency volatility will be essential.

He said this could arise from election uncertainty; high interest rates; power cuts, and worsening logistics challenges.

Nkonyane also highlighted the impact of geopolitical disruptions on shipping.

“The recent conflict in the Middle East, the rerouting of maritime vessels, and the increase in shipping costs are additional factors that may contribute to higher production costs in the short term.”

However, he said despite the challenges of global competitiveness and high operating costs due to economic and structural obstacles, the think tank forecasts that the truck and bus assembly industry in South Africa would exceed 27 000 units by 2030. In 2024, 25 000 trucks and buses will be assembled in the country.

Craig Parker highlighted market penetration of telematics. He said it was expected to grow from 40% to 43% by 2025 and level off at 50% market dominance by 2028.

Parker said video safety solutions were among the top trends in South Africa. He said the industry had enormous potential for growth, evolving from basic systems such as track and trace and stolen vehicle recovery.

Dehn said the event had covered important trends, however, he raised several unanswered questions.

“We need to find effective and efficient ways to respond to the roll-out and adoption of autonomous technologies in key markets, understand what this would demand of IT and engineering and map out how best to derive profit,” Dehn said.

“We are thrilled to be at the cutting edge of trend knowledge and insights and look forward to hosting future events of the same distinction.”

Futuroad Expo 2024 takes place from 19 to 21 November at Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.