GCC businesses in the automotive collision repair industry must take the COVID-19 crisis as a warning to innovate or risk being left behind, warn industry experts. The experts, speaking at a panel discussion hosted by Messe Frankfurt Middle East for Automechanika Dubai, noted that the COVID-19-related lockdown has caused a significant drop in collision and repair claims in the region. However, the panel of experts also pointed out that disruptions were already affecting bodyshops and businesses before the pandemic, and that urgent steps need to be taken to address the slump.
“If you were to remove the pandemic and think about the disruption already happening in our business - electric vehicles, car sharing, digital transformation and online services, it is a snapshot of the future if we are not ready for those trends that are happening,” said Yousef Abu Alaish, General Manager at Arabian Automobile Co. Nissan & Infiniti in the UAE. “We must prepare for the trends of the future with digital transformation. If we continue to do what we used to do as an industry, we will face this in the future and it is time to transform and prepare for that future. Those in the industry with online and digital services will see minimum impact,” he added.
As factors including new road regulations, safer vehicles, an increase in sensors and adaptive driving technology have already had a disruptive impact on demand in the industry, leading to a more competitive space, it is high time regional businesses considered more efficient models, the experts stressed.
“The pandemic only accelerated a trend that was already occurring throughout the industry in the Middle East, Europe and the US. There are a lot of factors impacting the industry – regulations, safety and technology – which reduce aggregate collision rates,” said Pierre Ara Keusseyan, Operations Manager at Polimar, a leader in vehicle refinishing and equipment supplies for the automotive aftermarket in the UAE. “People were always trying to develop ways to increase efficiency, reduce cost and become lean with the right product. What we have seen from our partners is that the speed and pace of change in the industry will only be faster and those who lag will be left behind,” he added.
The panel of experts agreed that digital transformation and the creation of multi-stakeholder platforms for collision repair and other areas will be key going forward as the industry becomes ‘stronger, leaner and wiser’.