Just do it, like the well-known slogan says, is the approach of Christo van Schalkwyk, Dealer Principal at Eastvaal Renault/Nissan/Datsun/UD in the Mpumalanga town of Bethal.
The dealership is one of only two new vehicle dealerships in Bethal, which is surrounded by larger towns like Emalahleni (previously Witbank), Middelburg and Secunda with bigger dealerships representing most brands. Although agriculture is a big activity in the area, it is the coal mines and Sasol so close by that predominantly provide the customer base for business and the dealership in Bethal.
“Business conditions in the current circumstances, taking our location into account and the role the local issues play in terms of service delivery and infrastructure, are all odds stacked against you. We must look at business or to be precise, the way we do business, completely differently.
“We cannot sit around on the showroom floor waiting for customers. Going out among people, following every lead, contacting people and using all possible social media and Internet avenues are how we operate to get business. Just do it and do it now, meaning taking immediate action is what it is all about,” Christo tells Dealerfloor.
“Our workshop and parts department are busy. The used cars side of the business is problematic as fewer new cars available to sell mean fewer trade-ins. We also must go out and look for good quality used cars with offers that must be carefully balanced so that we can still make a profit when selling them. The same applies to new vehicles. Discounts are mainly something of the past as we have to make maximum profit with every deal to stay afloat.”
Christo says the move of the UD division for the trucks from other premises to the current one just before lockdown was a financially sound move as it cut the overheads dramatically. “If we can cut costs like we did in this regard, it helps tremendously with the business’s profitability.
In terms of our product offering, our UD trucks are popular with coal operators and in the agriculture sector. On the Nissan side, we are looking forward to new products in the pipeline, especially the new Navara range, which for the first time will include single cab workhorse variants. We hope to make some inroads with this into the farming community.
“The Renault Kwid continues to do very well, and we still do find stock. Other new models are expected but they will probably be launched at a later stage. Entry-level vehicles remain popular like the Kwid and Triber, and with Datsun the Go models. Swopping stock within our group to satisfy customer needs is easier with Renault, in respect of which we have a number of dealerships in the group, but we are the only Nissan dealership,” he says.
The dealership, classified as a micro dealership, received a Best Service Award in SA in this category from Renault when Pina Nkosi scooped up the award in 2019.
Christo concludes by saying that the new reality we all face, at least for the immediate future, forces us to ‘go back to basics ’. “Like in times gone by, we have to adapt and get our footwork in order,” he says.
Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) kept the wheels rolling this year with the opening of five new dealerships in four provinces.
The latest addition to the Stellantis dealer network is a large, new Super Group multi-franchise facility in Jacaranda Street, Hennopspark, Centurion, for Jeep, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot and Citroën.
We can overcome all the hurdles placed in front of us if we recognise our biggest asset in business is our people, says Rob Downs the Dealer Principal at CMH Nissan and Mitsubishi Pinetown.