VEHICLE MANUFACTURER POWER PLAY

FUTURE TECH

April 1, 2024

VEHICLE MANUFACTURER POWER PLAY

The wonderful world of vehicle manufacturers is under massive pressure to change, driven by legislation, consumer choices and international trading. The collision repairers are down stream of this, and the increasing chaos will have quite an effect, eventually.

When Renault married Nissan…

Nissan was a much bigger company on the verge of complete collapse. Of course, as the Alliance brought Nissan back, Renault remained the smaller company. In time, the French Government managed to issue ‘loans’ to keep it afloat in exchange for politicians sitting on the board – in effect the French Government became a shareholder. 

The Government of Japan noticed this imbalance, as did Nissan – hence the whole Carlos Ghosn affair. The lowly minister who created this situation? The man who went on to become the President of France, Monsieur Macron….

Fast forward to the present CEO Luca de Meo, and the vision to establish Ampere as an electrification/technology company, to sell off the ICE business to Geely. The backdrop was weakening financials and the rumbling shareholder dispute. Nissan and Renault split their joint purchasing agreements in 2023 as part of the deal which saw Nissan investing in Ampere. The thorny question of government board seats was eliminated.

When Peugeot did a lot of marrying around the world

Stellantis was formed from the merger of Peugeot-Citroen-DS with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, after Peugeot had taken Vauxhall Opel on board. Indeed, Stellantis is a Peugeot centric business. The entire Stellantis leadership team is headed by CEO Carlos Taveres, a long-serving man of Renault, who is very clear that:

Euro 7 exists for such a short time before ICE was planned to be banned there would be almost no return on investment – as well as a miniscule improvement on Euro 6 d temp tail pipe emissions.

The EU27 seems to be pushing automotive policies which favoured China.

The threat from China for EU27 vehicle manufacturers.

The poor productivity of the Stellantis plants in Italy.

Stellantis operates nearly all automotive production plants in Italy – but they don’t control Piaggio, Zonda or Ferrari. In 2022 the Stellantis plants in Italy built 486 111 cars (France – 950 188) and 234 798 vans (France – 428 675). The Italian Government weighed in by saying they need investment to build one million vehicles per year, and a seat at the board (seems familiar). The threat was if this did not happen, they would seek another vehicle manufacturer.

The latest between Italy Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares? Stellantis would consider building a vehicle with China-based partner Leapmotors in Italy from 2026 onwards. 

Within Europe, and specifically ‘Fiat’, Poland plants build vehicles faster, cheaper and to a higher quality than Italy. The Italian PM can be upset as much as she likes – until that dynamic is fixed, the threat to Italian vehicle production will continue.

Meanwhile Stellantis seem to be interested in a merger with Renault, although both companies deny this. Investors, who are rather less polite, think Renault needs a larger partner now that Nissan could leave, and so is a viable acquisition. Remember, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares and a good deal of his team know exactly, precisely how Renault works.

The ripple effect…

These two examples show just how established vehicle manufacturers are running from pillar to post just to survive. The upshot for the employees is a higher degree of job uncertainty and vast projects to integrate each new partner or acquisition into outward facing functions such as parts supply. In the opening stages of 2024, we have seen 7 150 jobs to be eliminated from Continental, and Forvia (the name of the merged suppliers Fauricia and Hella) will remove            10 000 jobs by 2028.

It is chaotic enough that the EU28 initiated, for example, a helter-skelter system of staged emission standards, throwing more curved balls than any known sporting event in the process. The result has been a demonstrable increase in vehicle build cost, which does not reflect in vehicle value. Quite honestly it has been raining bad news for far too long.

Fiat 500e was built on a unique platform from 2021 alongside the 2007 Fiat 500. The 500e will be replaced with STLA Small based vehicle in 2026, not long after the 2007 Fiat 500 finishes. The 500e will be just five years old. Parts complexity on steroids!

The end result…

Vehicle build allows us to consider repair opportunities, so if less vehicles are built, there will be fewer repairs. It is unlikely vehicle sales will decline – in spite of demanding – as the UK does from the start of 2024, an increasing percentage of new vehicle sales each year powered only by electricity. For collision repairers the trend of downsizing manufacturing and removal of their suppliers has been underway since 2019, which means:

Extended supply chains from component suppliers increasingly located in the Far East.

Difficulty in getting some parts, due to differences in approach to vehicle repair compared to regions outside Europe.

Less importance given to Europe as the centre of the automotive world consolidates in China.

The risk is due to economics at least in the short term, it may be easier to replace the damaged vehicle rather than repair it. For any vehicle the best use of the invested energy is to repair it rather than throw it way. 

This means parts required to do that have to be readily available, along with access to repair information. Any vehicle manufacturer that does not understand that should stay away from the UK, EU27, South Africa and more.

So, what’s next for repairers?

If we think the world, as seen by our Governments, the wealthy and advertising agencies is true, by this time next year battery electric vehicles (‘BEV’) will be everywhere. If we consider BEVs are still quite expensive compared to equivalent size vehicles from the very same manufacturers, that providing power for charging at home, at work, anywhere – is a huge challenge. The idea works in Ad Land but not really in South Africa. 

For repairers the volume of BEVs will remain tiny, until the day electricity is supplied 24 hours every single day without failure and is substantially cheaper too. Until those blockages are removed only the most dedicated followers of BEVs will buy them, and in a free market economy, that’s fine.

However, increasing complexity due to connectivity and ADAS, for example, means even the most basic new vehicles powered by petrol or diesel are way, way more sophisticated than even a decade ago. The EU27 BEV version of Renault Kwid is called ‘Dacia Spring’ – the facelift has been announced for 2024, which gets the same central touch screen and instruments as the more expensive Renault Duster, also recently updated. Sophistication from the upper range is now on the bottom of the range models.

Looking forward, South Africa will continue to mainly repair diesel- and petrol-powered vehicles. Some of those may be hybrids, most will not. Just keep an eye out for all the other technologies growing all over each new model and prepare for the electronics revolution. 

In time, things like BEVs may follow. 

(Main Picture: General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis – the parent company of brands including Dodge, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, and Ram, among others – announced they were teaming up to form a new US electric-car charging network.)

Story by Andrew Marsh

Classic COrner & REStoration

Classic cars are the next big investment. As such the sector of restoration is growing in the realms of collision repair and it’s definitely the “sexier” side of the business. There are many opportunities to create exotic special-builds as well as keep timeless beauties in mint condition.

DRIVEN

With three motoring-journalists on our staff, we are able to test drive and review some of the latest models available on our roads as well as attend the latest model launches.

TRAINING

Knowledge is power. Training is key to up-skilling repairers as models launch onto our local roads faster than we can count. We also need to grow new talent into the collision repair industry. Courses are available to help and organisations are in place to train – this information is in Industry Index.

classic corner & resoration

Classic cars are the next big investment. As such the sector of restoration is growing in the realms of collision repair and it’s definitely the “sexier” side of the business. There are many opportunities to create exotic special-builds as well as keep timeless beauties in mint condition.

Driven

With three motoring-journalists on our staff, we are able to test drive and review some of the latest models available on our roads as well as attend the latest model launches.

TRAINING

Knowledge is power. Training is key to up-skilling repairers as models launch onto our local roads faster than we can count. We also need to grow new talent into the collision repair industry. Courses are available to help and organisations are in place to train – this information is in Industry Index.

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