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The Automotive Industry Gears Up To Navigate The New Normal

Beyond the immediate question of ‘how long’ is the more existential question of ‘what next’? As I see it, the main questions for the mobility industry to address as it begins its comeback from the COVID-19 crisis are, firstly, will there be opportunities for future growth and, if so, where will they be? Secondly, what will be the ‘new normal’ and how will this play into new strategic roadmaps? Thirdly, how can stakeholders navigate through a recessionary period that could last from anywhere between two to four quarters depending on the duration and severity of the pandemic?  

Setting the Scene: From How Long To What Next?

Frost & Sullivan’s ongoing analysis of real-time data reveals that two scenarios could ensue:  Severe Pandemic and Global Emergency with outcomes ranging from gradual recovery to recession, respectively.

In the Global Emergency scenario, the pandemic rages uncontrolled, resulting in continued production slowdowns, high unemployment and plummeting demand. Efforts at getting “back-to-normal” give way to adapting to the “new normal”, with digital strategies being forcibly shoehorned into traditional supply chains. The mobility industry will hurtle into a recessionary environment, overtaking 2019 levels only by 2024-2025.

However, the more likely scenario which I see unfolding is that of a Severe Pandemic where persistent bottlenecks will prevent manufacturing plants from realizing full capacity utilization in the near-term. Most countries will resume only partial vehicle production by mid-June before ramping up to full capacity by August. As a result, I anticipate annual light vehicle production volumes dropping by about 21% from 2019 levels before subsequently picking up pace in 2021 and finally overhauling 2019 levels by 2023.

Will There Be Opportunities For Future Growth And, If So, Where Will They Be?

The pandemic has applied the brakes on some markets while sending others into overdrive. Digital & connectivity services are on track for runaway growth. The shared mobility market will teeter as stakeholders hastily redraw their blueprints to accommodate the new normal of social distancing. Meanwhile, travel restrictions will dampen prospects for the aftermarket as vehicles remain parked in garages, saving vehicles from daily wear and tear and delaying the need for replacement tires and parts.

But it’s not as if opportunities are lacking. In fact, five key markets of the mobility industry show that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

For a start, my team has crunched automotive sales data from the last 50 years and has found that decline in car sales typically last only two years with the industry rallying to pre-recession levels within three to four years.

There are a few pockets of growth in the global shared mobility market that has, expectedly, been devastated by COVID-19. Bike sharing will be one of these areas of opportunity with several bike sharing companies seeing a rise in user activity. Like Uber has done with its UberMedic service, shared mobility operators are looking