For more than a century, Vereeniging and the surrounding Vaal auto enthusiasts have been proudly serviced by Team Vaal and its subsidiaries, which currently include Mazda Vereeniging, Vereeniging Motors and Dutton Motors in Sasolburg.
According to owner and CEO, Rory Plitt, he is currently the third generation owning and managing car dealerships in the Vaal Triangle, and attest to the Mazda dealership being the oldest in the country.
“After my dad, Selwyn, took over the dealership from my grandfather, David, we were selling Morris, Wolseley, Riley (British Leyland), Volvo, Jaguar and Renault vehicles,” he told Dealerfloor recently. “But that all changed in 1963 when a scout from Japan came to the dealership and asked him if it could also become a Mazda dealership.”
The Mazda dealership is still going strong and over time more than 12 different auto brands were represented until they settled on Mazda (in Vereeniging), Volkswagen (Dutton Motors in Sasolburg and Vereeniging) and a used car dealership (Vereeniging Motors), as well as a filling station and a service workshop.
As one of the youngest recipients of the businessman of the year award from motor dealer development and training giant, Sewells, Plitt said that hard work alone is not always a recipe for success. “I believe one of the biggest influences on being successful, apart from having an excellent mentor in my father, was being able to work in every single department and division you can find at any car dealership.”
Plitt started his career in the auto industry while still at school. He had to wash cars, pack the tyre storage room and do general cleaning tasks at his dad’s car dealership. “As soon as I got my driver’s licence, I immediately started as a driver delivering and collecting documents, cars and the like,” he said. Plitt started working at the workshop and parts department, eventually filling the service manager position before he moved to selling used cars.
“I really grew into the different roles I played over the years and had to earn every promotion I got, as my dad never believed in favouritism just because I was his son,” Plitt remembers. “In fact, I believe it made it even harder for me, but today I am glad for that privilege as I believe in the same values.”
For Plitt, all his experiences prepared him to be a successful businessman, but also to play a valuable mentorship role to up-and-coming dealer principals and future owners in preparing them to take over a dealership and making a success of it. “The role that ABSA Vehicle and Asset Finance is playing in establishing such a mentorship programme is extremely valuable, with the transfer of skills and knowledge in the fundamentals of leadership by way of workshops, being an exciting prospect for me as a presenter,” Plitt announced.
When asked about navigating the current pandemic and COVID-19-related challenges for the industry, Plitt explains how long-standing relationships with his client base proved to be essential in keeping the business and its staff without any lay-offs.
“The current low interest rate and blooming used car market are essential in a time where we are very low on new vehicle stock,” he said. “The approval rates from banks and a renewed focus on service delivery by our financial partners cannot be overemphasised.”
With the right to repair act taking effect on 1 July 2021, Plitt had the foresight to establish the Team Vaal Service Centre a couple of years ago, confirming an already established brand to deliver in the necessary auto servicing needs.
“I believe the right to repair act brings big changes and challenges to the industry, especially if you run both new and used car dealerships, but as with so many things, it also brings opportunities if you are properly prepared and willing to embrace it,” Plitt concluded.
Despite the severe drought in large parts of the Karoo, the motor business in Graaff-Reinet is stepping up with more brands being represented in this part of the world.
If a pandemic and stock issues aren’t enough of a challenge, why not add a building project/dealership revamp/moving of facilities and getting a second dealership to full independent dealership status to a DP’s list of tasks.
Scott Auto Mazda in Bethlehem has a proud history that stretches back nearly 50 years, which makes them one of the best-known Mazda dealers in the Free State.