Adapting to changing conditions in Cradock

The motor industry is one of the most adaptive businesses with a constantly changing environment and customer needs that must constantly be met by dealers.

Kelston Bern1

“Even in a more rural setting like ours here in Cradock, we must take cognizance of what customers want and what the prevailing circumstances in the industry are. With stock shortages and unknown factors abroad, which affect our local market, we must be able to service customers to the best of our ability,” says Bernard Coetzer, Dealer Principal of the Kelston Multi-franchise in this Eastern Cape town.

Bernard Coetzer, Dealer Principal at Kelston’s Multi-franchise dealership in Cradock.

The dealership consists of three brands, Ford, Mazda and Mahindra, and the used vehicles are sold under the Ford Approved banner. The Cradock dealership has a wide radius of business stretching 130 kilometres and it serves several smaller towns and communities.

“To serve our customers in the best way possible, the dealership was rebuilt after it was bought in 2020 by the Kelston Motor Group. The new and revamped dealership managed to increase its business dramatically, especially in the after-sales department.

“Our growth is owing to the customer service we now render; the new facilities play a major role and being part of a larger group with the necessary back-up and support is crucial. What is also important, is our community involvement.

The entrance to the Mahindra showroom floor.

“Cradock and the other small towns in our region’s existence is due to the big agriculture sector. Sheep and crop farming are the main agriculture activities. In Cradock, everyone knows everyone else, and our close-knit ties to the community are important to our business,” Bernard tells Dealerfloor.

“We have the famous Karoo Food Festival here now where we sponsor the entertainment tent and use the opportunity to showcase some of our vehicles and offer potential customers test drives. Furthermore, we assist different organisations as their needs arise, from helping with food for animal shelters to collecting clothes and toys for underprivileged children – to mention a few.”

The dealership makes use of opportunities like the recently held Karoo Food Fest to showcase their products.

Bernard’s story is truly one of hard work and determination, and he has come a long way with the Kelston Motor Group, since joining in 2011 as a storeman.

He moved through the ranks swiftly, going from stores to parts sales, and within a year became the top parts salesman in the group. In 2016, he was promoted to After-sales Manager at Kelston Ford Queenstown, which meant relocating from Mpumalanga to the Eastern Cape. In 2021, he was again promoted, this time to Dealer Principal at Kelston Ford Cradock.

The new multi-franchise dealership during the building phase.

“Much of what I have learnt and the experience I have gained are from the time I have worked and lived in the Eastern Cape. The Karoo is the place to be, and once you have travelled down the ‘Groot Vis Rivier’ there is simply nowhere else to call home. My family and I have fallen in love with this part of the world.”

Bernard says he remains optimistic about the future – not only in Cradock, but for the broader region and that business conditions will only improve. “I am thankful to our community, our customers, and the farmers from all over the area for their support. The proof of the support is our growing business and it is something we definitely do not take for granted,” he concludes.

The dealership after completion.

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