Motor dealers must adapt or die in environment of radical change, futurist tells conference

“Disruptive forces are shaping all aspects of the world today; how should we respond?”

Brian Joss – This clarion call from world renowned futurist, Dr Graeme Codrington, certainly got the attention of the large group of motor industry people who met at the Kyalami Conference Centre recently for the opening roadshow of the 2017 Business of the Year awards under the auspices of NADA and Sewells-MSXI.

Futurist Graeme Codrington (centre), the keynote speaker at the NADA/Sewells MSX International Business-of-the-Year road show held at the Kyalami Conference Centre, is flanked by Warren Olsen (left), the CEO of Sewells MSX International in South Africa and Gary McCraw, the Director of NADA at the Retail Motor Industry organisation (RMI)

Codrington undoubtedly got the undivided attention of the delegates as he sketched future scenarios that ranged from autonomous cars to car sharing and the need for motor dealers to “adapt or die” in an environment of radical changes.

He said that these developments will have far-reaching effects, ranging from a steep decline in the requirement for parking, lower income for insurance companies (fewer cars on the road), local authorities (from traffic fines, licence fees and parking charges), while the ownership and composition of vehicle fleets will also change … probably dramatically.

Codrington said it was now vital for all businesses to be aware of the latest, far-reaching-boggling developments on all the fronts that will or may affect them. Currently aspects range from maximising the use of mobile devices, which are now far more than just a means of communication, to virtual reality, changes in the finance world with the arrival new concepts such as Blockchain and Bitcoin, and real time language translation on Skype.

He also mentioned several other trends, one of which was longevity; for instance, nearly 20 000 people in South Africa are now over 100 years old! This means that the previous norms for people retiring and moving out of the buying cycle no longer apply and businesses must adapt!

The futurist was very strong on the availability of cheap, sustainable energy. He said that already there are more than 70 wind and solar farms generating power in South Africa while these resources, together with other methods will add to low cost energy production. He cited the efforts of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which is a global group of 28 high worth investors from 10 countries – headed by Bill Gates of Microsoft – which is committed to funding innovative, clean energy companies.

Codrington said the availability of cheap energy will lead to the making of water through desalination and chemical processes. “Cheap energy and the subsequent availability of adequate supplies of water will provide an enormous boost to the global economy and accelerate change,” said Codrington.

The futurist stressed the importance of integrating business processes instead of having them out on a limb, such as was the case in the past with aspects such as quality control and health and safety.

He spelled out guidelines for businesses in the changing world and came up with five mindsets: switch on the radar. Look ahead. Shift attitudes where necessary. Involve all members of the business team in looking for new business opportunities; be curious. This must also be a team effort too; experiment. Instil a culture of experimentation. Learn lessons from failures; embrace difference. Use it as an advantage; confront your limiting orthodoxies. Remember that some of the things you do today are still anchored in the past.

The keynote speaker said: “Every threat has an opportunity” and that having a “future-focused toolkit” was the way to go.

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