The SA automotive industry should attempt to become a supplier of “niche market” vehicles rather than a mass car producer, says Peter Cooke, an academic from the UK’s Nottingham Business School.

The SA automotive industry should attempt to become a supplier of “niche market” vehicles rather than a mass car producer, says Peter Cooke, an academic from the UK’s Nottingham Business School.

Speaking at auditing firm KPMG’s release of the 2003 Automotive Survey, Cooke said the key to South Africa’s success in the global automotive manufacturing market was the production of “high-quality cars for niche export markets”.

Cooke said consumers across the globe were looking to buy more distinctive vehicles. Consumers did not want to drive “bland” cars anymore and wanted something “that defined their personalities”.

This was in line with what Proactive Insight managing director Albert McLean said at the CAR Conference at the Auto Africa motor show last year, especially the way he described the “trendsetter” and “enthusiast” customer profile. “The nature of the motor vehicle owner is changing virtually as rapidly as the model line-ups of the individual manufacturers,” McLean said.

With this trend towards more distinctive vehicles, South Africa was well-positioned to take opportunities in nice markets rather than trying to be a mass producer of millions of the same kind of vehicle, Cooke said.

Cooke cited Finland as an example of a country that found its place in the global market by making about 85 per cent of all the cabriolets sold in Western Europe, reported.

While full of praise for the success of the motor industry development programme, Cooke suggested that South Africa should start preparing for when the programme ended in 2012.

Cooke said South Africa had to invest in research and development to remain competitive. In this way, he said, the country would have innovative products that would appeal to manufacturers in the global supply chain.

Cooke added that vehicle component manufacturers could do more to get into this supply chain. He said if they “were prepared to work more closely together in making subcomponents, they could get a larger slice of the international market”.

Original article from Car