Spare-parts, services as challenges to vehicle users
IF Nigeria must realise projected development in the automobile sector, there is need for stakeholders to invest in human capital development and technology, in other to improve after sales challenges and meet up with the paradigm shift in the industry.
This, according to experts, would bring about the needed development in the sector.
Aside from bridging manpower gap in the top operational roles, local assemblage and sales of vehicles in the country, is yet to address key value chain needs.
Experts lament that critical subdivisions that will positively impact lives of ordinary Nigerians, particularly in the areas of spare parts and quality of vehicle repair services to reduce wastage of man-hour and cost of vehicle servicing in the country, have not been given needed attention.
Citing the prevailing situation in other developed countries, automobile specialists in Nigeria are of conflicting views on the need for government to enforce regulations that would compel automakers, through their franchise owners, to provide necessary technical information or train local artisans on the technology of the vehicles imported and assembled in the country.
The automobile sector, in recent times, is being driven by latest trends and technological advancement as vehicles are now more systematic and computerised.
Experts believe that unless there is collaboration from the private sector and government agencies to import state-of-the-art technology and address training insufficiency for mechanical engineers or local mechanics, Nigeria may continue to witness poor services.
Concerned about the situation, the Managing Director, Mymoto-XE, Wole Onasanya, told The Guardian that Nigerians lack required manpower skill and technology, capable of handling the repairs of modern vehicles.
He said: “Vehicle technology has changed a lot over the past few decades and there is increased computerisation in most vehicles these days. This means that a competent mechanic today has to be very familiar with the use of diagnostic equipments and should be able to understand and interpret technical information provided by the equipment,”
According to him, ability to afford proper testing equipment and other repair tools including type of equipment required to do a good job on a vehicle (for proper diagnosing, testing, inspecting, de-coupling, raising a vehicle etc.) are not cheap and as such puts several mechanics at a disadvantage.
“Lack of ready access to computers connected to the internet in most workshops makes it difficult for mechanics to share information real-time on repairs. Sharing of information could be with other mechanics in Nigeria or overseas. Oftentimes you can also watch a Youtube video that provides step by step explanation on how to do a certain repair or diagnosis. Most mechanics are not able to do this,” Onasanya said.
He maintained that poor quality of spare parts in the country has also contributed to the predicament of local mechanics, who are already confounded with inadequate training.
“This is unfortunately a difficult problem to tackle and one that in the long term needs to be addressed by the private sector. Private sector can address this by investing in services that provide access to high-quality warranty backed parts.
“The way that government can assist is to reduce or eliminate duties on spare parts to reduce the total landing cost of high quality spare parts so they are more affordable for the average Nigerian,” Onansaya stated.
He said local mechanics could leverage on information about car repairs through subscription based repair platforms like AllData and Mitchell to bridge skill gap.
“These are databases delivered by a computer or tablet that provide detailed wiring information, diagnostic steps and repair instructions for almost every vehicle make and model in existence,” he added.
Since the solutions are not cheap and apply to latest brands, which are not common in the Nigerian market, Onansaya say government could provide loan guarantee to lenders who want to finance the purchase of equipment by mechanics so that more repair equipment, internet access could be readily available.
Explaining the issue, a U.S. trained auto specialist, who manages a workshop for vehicle maintenance in Lagos, Maryann Chukwueke, said: “I am not satisfied with the situation that prevails in the country. What we find is that there are more fake materials and accessories in the market that are far from the quality that we should have.
“We don’t have serious regulations in the country. The market is awash with different types of products from different parts of the world without serious judicial regulations. The citizens need to rise up against fake spare-parts. In fact when I go to Ghana; I find that I can get more authentic products than here because it seems that there are better regulations in Ghana”.
Admitting that developing countries share similar challenge, Chukwueke stressed that there was need to reduce import of fake products in the country.
“We can’t rely on local parts. I think Nigerians deliberately go to tell parts manufacturers to produce substandard parts for Nigeria market. Though some parts are brand new, you still discover that they are substandard. That is why most Nigerians believe in used vehicles and parts,” Managing Director of Automedics, Kunle Shonaike said.
Stressing that automakers need to provide adequate support for local artisans in Nigeria, Shoinake said: “Automotive has changed in terms of the electronics we have in them and we are expecting that technology will continue to develop so we need to look at how we can maintain the vehicles we have on our roads. But most of the people that are working on them in Nigeria don’t have required understanding. They still work in the old crude ways they learnt in the 70s.
“I see a lot of injustice. Though the local mechanics may not know, but there is injustice on the vehicles, the vehicle owners and to themselves. Jobs that would have taken them less time are taking them longer time making them to lose manpower they would have put into the job because they are not doing things the proper way”, he added..
Currently the regulator said it would consider working with pioneer OEM investors to fill skills gaps in auto operations, by ensuring all lower skilled and mid-skilled roles are immediately filled by Nigerians.