• Madani Sahari

Facing challenges with a glass-half-full attitude

The discipline of engineering emphasizes the continuous application of the principles of science and technology to design and build solutions to problems.

Problems are also a matter of perspectives. Human civilisation was built on innovation, which throughout history has been sparked by new problems - i.e. a problem can appear and disrupt our lives, or in many cases, the innovator comes to a realisation that the current state or method is in itself problematic, spurring a need to develop better ways of doing things.

Even then, disruptive problems may also have silver linings, paving the way for arising opportunities.

2016 has undoubtedly been a challenging year, not for just the industry, but also at the domestic and international stages.

Traditionally, the US and Europe have shaped the socio-economic norms of society, founded on a firm belief of the free market and limitless equality, demonstrated through their years of global economic domination.

This year however, our norms were challenged as numerous collectives began voicing out disenfranchisement as a product of such liberal practices.

This led to two major events that challenged our conventional theories of governance - a public approval of Britain's exit from the European Union and the election of a US President with an unconventional world view of public administration.

On the domestic front, it is undeniable that just like other sectors, the local automotive industry has not been spared from the challenges posed from the current uncertain economy. Naturally, prolonged economic uncertainty will curb consumer spending - leading to the reduced figures expected by the end of this year.

Numerous articles in this column have propagated the gradual move towards a liberalised economy, as market forces are the best determinant of the power balance between the producers and consumers.

However, we are a nation developing in the shadow of more advanced countries, and this gives us the advantage of predicting the future based on the history of others.

On that note, there is much we can learn from the current state of the globalised economy. One thing we certainly have learned is that the only thing constant is change. This year was a good lesson on how products, competition, society and expectation has changed, especially as the internet has destroyed the normal rules of the game.

Taking a step back - the current uncertainty is not a recent phenomenon, it can be traced back to the last quarter of 2014 - seen through the appreciation of the USD back in January 2015.

Despite this, Malaysia's Total Industry Volume (TIV) and Total Production Volume (TPV) still managed to record all-time high figures in 2015.

Furthermore, jobs in the sector have continued to increase (25,870 new jobs expected by the end of 2016), and more technology penetration is seen throughout 2016 at both the OEM and vendor levels.

These are just some of the figures that indicate that for the last three years, we have created a stronger foundation through the NAP2014 - it has developed an industry which has proven to be more resilient to economic cycles.

Resilience is an important keyword here - it means that the problems and challenges faced by the industry at this very point in time is no longer a battle for survival, but rather a stumbling block, in fact an inconvenience to an eventual success in the future.

This article is the first part in a series of articles discussing the industry's outlook towards facing internal and external challenges.

In later parts of this series, we will discuss specifics in addressing such challenges, and how as an automotive fraternity, we can face them.

"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations"

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