Ben van der Walt started selling used vehicles under a tree in Rustenburg.
Today, his business empire stretches across Rustenburg and the Southern Cape. His business has also expanded beyond just car sales. According to him, his business stands on four legs of which three are in the motor retail sector.
The first one is the VDW Group with multi-franchise dealerships in Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay. In Oudtshoorn, the dealership consists of Nissan, GWM/Haval and Renault, while in Mossel Bay it is Nissan and GWM/Haval.
The second leg of the business is the Platinia Group with a Mahindra dealership in Rustenburg and his most recent acquisition, the Mahindra dealership in George, with a possibility of expansion to towns like Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn for the brand.
The third leg of his motor business is Avura Motors with two dealerships for pre-owned vehicles in Rustenburg where he is in partnership with a used car specialist.
“After completion of my BCom Financial Management studies at Tuks, I decided to venture into the car business and started selling a few vehicles literally from under a tree in Rustenburg during 2009,” Ben tells Dealerfloor.
“In 2011, premises that housed a new-car dealership came into the market when they relocated to a new place. I grabbed the opportunity and opened my used car business there and later that same year also the Kia dealership, my first OEM. I sold the Kia dealership last year.
“In 2018, we opened the Mahindra dealership in Rustenburg, an excellent brand in an area where mining is the main economic driver of the region’s economy. The stock shortage does put a damper on business, but this cuts across the board for all brands and models for everyone.
“Regardless of this, hurdles have been placed in front of us since the arrival of the pandemic; we are managing well, and I am extremely excited about our expansion in the southern Cape and the well-known Garden Route since I first ventured into the multi-franchise business set-up in Mossel Bay in 2016 and then Oudtshoorn.
“Our pre-owned business is also exciting even with the challenges in the market. The stock is available, but pricing is an issue. Despite this, we have built a good name and reputation over the years, which is paying dividends for us during these times. We have solid third party-providers and we supply our new car dealerships in the Cape with quality used stock.” Ben says.
“Rustenburg has good momentum owing to the mining activities, and business has picked up since Marikana in 2012. Our two used car dealerships with a combined 150 vehicles stock level, retail cars from R50 000 to R4 million. I believe if we can make money and provide a decent product, we will sell it.
Ben tells Dealerfloor another issue close to his heart is getting capable people into the retail business. “It is a challenge today to get new blood into the business. Unfortunately, not enough people think of selling vehicles as a career. On the technical side, we are bleeding with the most talented technicians leaving the country, and on the sales side, we need more committed talent with a career vision,” he says.
And what about the future? “I am positive, and indications are that the stock supply will improve in the near future. In the meantime, if you keep your pencil sharp, you can do more with less,” he concludes.
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Weskus Ford in Vredenburg relocated to a new building that offers much more space for their new and pre-owned vehicles.
Regardless of the persisting challenges related to COVID-19, business in the North West province seems to be on the upside.