Gerard O’Farrell, who is Group Director, Car Division, O.H.M Group, was elected President of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), at the organisation’s AGM held recently in (Killashee House Hotel,) Naas, Co. Kildare. Speaking at SIMI’s AGM Gerard O’Farrell commented on the challenges and opportunities facing the Industry. “The Motor Industry is very conscious that effectively we are operating in an eco-system, where a change implemented in one policy area can have an unplanned knock-on effect in another. There has been a lot of anti-diesel sentiment in the media recently but 70% of the newest cars on the road are diesel, their purchase having been encouraged by previous State policies. If the values of those used cars were to fall further, in addition to the Brexit impact, we will reduce the ability of their owners to be able to change for a cleaner low or zero emissions new car. In my view it is crucially important that our used car values remain as strong as possible, Brexit not-withstanding, to protect consumers’ investments and in the knowledge that trade-in values are the key to ensuring that we can renew the national fleet. We need to increase the penetration of both Zero and Low-Emitting cars as an even wider choice becomes available. In this very complex environment, SIMI will continue to work very closely with all key stakeholders to provide a stable and sustainable environment in which to transit to a more sustainable future for transport in Ireland”.
Highlighting one of the more pressing areas concerns, the cross-sector skills shortage which members are reporting, he remarked that “we need to attract the very best people and show them the benefits our Industry has to offer, train them to the highest standards and continue to develop their career paths in order to retain them.” The area of apprentice training is a key focus for the Society who will look to develop and deliver solutions to avoid even more serious problems in the future. Mr O’Farrell remarked that the Motor Industry is on the cusp of exciting technological advances which will reshape customers transport needs and how they use cars in the future. This will also change the Industry beyond recognition which means huge opportunities as we transition to a future that will be more focused on IT and new technologies than on current mechanical systems. These changes will provide huge opportunities, from the development of these new technologies to the creation of new business expertise and job opportunities. The people we will require for the future will need to be at the cutting-edge to deliver these hugely exciting changes. As an Industry, we need to start our recruitment drive now to ensure that we can avoid serious skills shortages in areas that will be crucial to deliver for us for the State and for the Environment.
He stated that “Ireland is very well placed to become a centre of excellence in automotive software engineering with our young, highly educated workforce and IT skillset. The roll-out of 2nd generation Electric and Hybrid vehicles, a renewed investment plan to expand the charging network and the exciting focus on autonomous driving and connectivity will all start to really take root in the next few years.”
Having worked in the Motor Industry for numerous years Gerard has gained extensive experience in various roles covering Aftersales, Dealer Development, and general Management which has proved invaluable in his current role as Group Director of the Car Division of OHM Group, a privately owned Irish group involved exclusively in the Distribution (Jaguar and Land Rover) and Retailing of Cars (Spirit Motor Group), Light Commercials and HGVs (DAF & MAN Trucks and DE Power Solutions) in Ireland.