WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
While at present, the use of the new technologies mentioned above is limited there will most certainly be a dramatic shift towards them in the coming years. How long do we have until the key disappears is a question that is hard to answer. However, many locksmiths will be concerned about losing their livelihoods in the future. It’s not all doom and gloom and a keyless future may be further away than you think.
BRITAIN’S AGEING CAR POPULATION
One thing that is going in the favour of the automotive locksmith industry is the fact that vehicles over the past 25 years or so have become much better manufactured and tend to last longer than the cars of say the seventies, eighties or even early nineties. The average age of a car in Britain in 2018 was 8.2 years compared to 1994 where the average vehicle aged just 6.7 years old. What is further encouraging is this trend is not just isolated to the UK but is happening globally with a 2019 survey by U.S firm IHS Markit stating that the average age of a vehicle in that year was 11.9 years old. With Keyless cars only really becoming mainstream in the middle of the last decade and people for one reason or another choosing to continue to drive their ageing cars. 48.6% of which are 6 years or older, with a further 8% 13 years or more. It seems unlikely that car keys and proximity keys will disappear into smartphones overnight. What is more, is that people are unlikely to adopt this new technology all at once.
Manufacturers due diligence
Another reason to be optimistic is, after the introduction of keyless entry remotes and proximity keys, manufacturers saw a swathe of complaints regarding relay attack vulnerabilities in the years that followed as mentioned earlier. This has served to make them more cautious in their attempts to roll out new entry and security systems. Therefore, they will be spending increased time in ensuring that new methods for accessing our vehicles are as secure as possible, delaying the inevitable transition to a fully keyless automotive market considerably.
Are the dealers fighting to keep the keys?
Another thing automotive locksmiths might have on their side is an unlikely ally in the form of the dealerships. Although dealerships have frequently butted heads with the aftermarket over claims that automotive locksmiths and other aftermarket professionals eat into their market share, they may be less inclined to side with the manufacturers if it comes to completely removing keys from their vehicles. As key replacement from the dealer still proves to be a huge cash cow for the dealerships and they are unlikely to be quietly resigned to losing a decent revenue source for the sake of progress alone.
The points above suggest that there will still be life in the industry for at least the short to mid-term, but change will inevitably come, so, how and when do we need to think of changing our business models?
DO WE NEED TO DIVERSIFY NOW?
The answer will always be yes, but that doesn’t mean change has to be drastic. A measured approach to diversifying is always better than an ill-thought-out and rushed one. As we see the gradual changes in how the future of vehicle security is evolving it will be clearer where the right areas to diversify are. The key to diversifying in any industry is to first examine your core competencies. What is it that you do best? Then look at other places those competencies can be applied. Automotive locksmiths have had to adapt to many changes in technology over the years, meaning that one of their core competencies is the ability to adapt. Spending your time discovering new methods of gain entry and programming a vehicle’s immobiliser via OBD on a myriad of different makes and models innately breeds versatility. This adaptability will put them in good stead when it comes to the changes ahead.
There are a lot of conflicting opinions within the industry on how things will look in the next ten or even five years. Here are the thoughts of Peter Wynard of Lock Swindon who believes that the end of the car key is closer than we think.
“I predict within the next 18 months biometric secure Smartphone systems will be starting, tracking and securing new vehicles on an industry-wide scale. Already Connect2Car and OnStar’s apps are monitoring the oil life, tyre pressure and remaining fuel, as well as allowing access to the vehicle and starting it – remotely if required. Add to this the ability to locate your vehicle in a busy car park by remotely sounding the horn and flashing the lights and it’s no wonder the tech-savvy generations are ready to take to phone car control in a big way.
The manufacturers will offer their own apps for a while, I’m sure, but generic systems will no doubt overtake them, in the same way, the supply of copy blanks overtook manufacturers’ own blank keys.”
Next, we have the counter-argument from Dean Sanderson of 3D Group UK.
“I think it’s in the minds of any automotive locksmith supplier and anyone in the industry (well, it should be). We all know technology advances. We all know in time the auto locksmith industry will change but, and this is a big but, with the recent technology flaws of keyless entry vehicles manufactures will be proceeding cautiously and may delay that transition to keyless vehicles. Five years ago, we predicted it would be around now that things started changing, although there are signs of replacements to car keys, there hasn’t been any considerable saturation in the market.
Most manufacturers still make all their cars with keys and they always want to make more money so charging people extra for an app to open their vehicles as an add-on makes sense. BMW for instance, already has a system in place to use your phone for opening your car, but it’s an expensive luxury which many people won’t pay for.
I do feel within the next 10 year there will be a shift but, at present people are still programming keys for 5 or even 10 year old cars. So I don’t see things changing in the automotive locksmith industry any time soon!.”
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