Nothing sells like stock at the “right price”. This old saying in the motor trade today rings true just as much as any time in the past.
But there is more to this than meets the eye.
“The demand for expensive company branding (CI), luxurious dealerships and prime real estate as location, puts viability and profit margins under pressure although it is imperative that brands are presented professionally.”
“OEMs should also be sensitive to this as the local car market and the country’s economy are under severe pressure. Dealership management as the frontline to a successful operation must dig deep in today’s business environment to juggle all the balls, so to speak.
Dealerfloor had a chat with Donald Christy (Photo), well-known figure in the automotive landscape in South Africa. Today, he is semi-retired but still serves on various boards of businesses, mostly related to the motor industry. One of his passions is to assist Dealer Principals with advice on running a dealership.
“There is also a saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even with all the changes in technology, dealership requirements from OEMs, customer demands and expectations and the ever-changing business environment, the basics still apply as they always have,” he tells us.
“The complete distribution chain has to be efficient. The multi-franchise concept was historically shunned by most OEMs, but now it is becoming the norm with many OEMs. Shared functions and facilities bring an economy of scale that contributes to efficiency and in the end profitability.
“Huge model ranges require significant investment in parts, tech training, marketing and promotion, which also negatively impact OEMs, dealers and ultimately the public. Inefficiency and waste need to be aggressively tackled throughout the distribution chain. Cutting overheads takes no skill – anyone can do it. Cutting out waste and inefficiency requires skill and knowledge. The market is going to severely punish inefficient distribution channels,” Donald tells Dealerfloor.
A few highlights of his career include Group Marketing Executive, Dealer Principal and Director of the Williams Hunt Motor Group (1988 to 1999) where he was involved with brands like Opel, Isuzu, Saab, Chev, Cadillac and Toyota.
He became the co-owner in the Reeds Motor Group in Cape Town (later sold to Unitrans/CFOA) and assisted in bringing Pinewood DMS to South Africa (he is a non-executive director of Motify, newly established entity with the coming together of Pinewood and Ampersand Communications).
Furthermore, Donald is a shareholder in Andy Cab Canopies, which is an LDV canopy manufacturer, and in 2021 he was appointment onto the board of Auas Motors in Namibia as a non-executive director, among other things.
Keeping his career in the automotive industry in mind, Donald decided to share his wisdom and the experience he gained over the years with DPs. “I have an informal WhatsApp broadcast group of about one hundred DPs and management to whom I send tips. I hope to assist them in running more efficient dealerships.
“I am a firm believer in the concept of a balanced business where each department performs optimally and is assessed and measured as a business unit. Cash flow is the “oxygen’ of any business and dealerships have traditionally not focussed on it enough.
“I really still enjoy trying to add value to dealerships where I can. I do a bit of consulting here and there as well but only if the dealer is truly committed to improving,” Donald tells Dealerfloor.
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