The start of the pandemic in 2020 signalled a very different world for many of us. In the automotive world, car factories and car showrooms came to a standstill as nations went into lockdown in a bid to control the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic made an unprecedented impact on almost every aspect of life on earth, not least of which was automotive supply chains around the world. When the pandemic struck, nowhere was this felt more acutely than in China, where most automotive components and parts were produced. In fact, China was responsible for nearly one-third of the world’s car production. The pandemic forced the production of many of these factories in China to slow down and eventually stop. As a result, stocks piled up as they could not be shipped out globally.
The supply chain was also restricted when not enough transport lines were available; maritime transport, being key to transporting automotive parts, was caught in the vicious circle of demand and supply. In this case, car consumers forced into pandemic hibernation in turn caused low demand for new cars and added to the dire predicament of production and assembly lines already in the midst of closure from the pandemic.
The automotive industry was also affected by the shortage of semiconductors. Semiconductors play a vital role in our modern smart cars as they allow a variety of functions related to safety, electrification, communication and connectivity. Carmakers had to compete with a surge in demand for personal computers, webcams for online meetings, and other related consumer electronics, as many people around the world had to work from home during the lockdowns.
With the pandemic situation not looking to improve, the automotive world, then in a bid to kickstart sales, shifted marketing and sales of new cars online to reach out to the population, many of whom have already tuned in to digitisation and online shopping for nearly everything they need. As people are making more transactions virtually, car dealers and distributors introduced slick new virtual reality car showrooms for would-be buyers to ‘walk’ around and ‘explore’ the latest models. With sales personnel ‘on hand’ to answer questions and provide additional information, car buyers can make a purchase online and even have their cars delivered to their homes. Dealers and distributors are hoping this will go some way towards gaining new buyers without them ever setting foot physically into their showrooms.
The pandemic has forced car manufacturers to be creative and innovative in their approach in this new normal. If they had not done so previously, it was time to embrace the power of data. Big-data analyses and machine-learning technologies can help carmakers be more competitive by improving design manufacturing and marketing processes. They could also improve the efficiency of supply chains and mitigate the effect of another global event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we continue to grapple with new variants of the COVID-19 virus, the automotive industry is constantly looking at ways to not only combat the fallouts, but also emerge with a refreshed mindset on how to make things better, for now and the future.