Family effort at Thys Auto in Upington

They work together and play together. For the Van Rooyen family from Upington in the Northern Cape, this goes hand in hand with the successful running of the well-known Thys Auto Used Vehicles Dealership.

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What started on a piece of land in 2003 with a few cars and a table to work from as a courtesy gesture at the BMW dealership next door, resulted years later in Thys van Rooyen buying the piece of land, the premises of the BMW dealership and a 50% share in the dealership – BMW Autoluxes – itself.

Thys, who worked for another car retailer before deciding to go it alone, quickly got up to selling around 30 to 50 used cars a month. He bought another premises where Thys Auto started and is still located today as one of the biggest used car dealerships in Upington and the region.

Today the family, consisting of Thys, his son, Renier, and his daughter, Tonia, together with a staff complement of 17 people run the award-winning dealership that has received numerous awards over the years from all the major financing banks, including being an ABSA Golden Partner for many years.

The family sold the BMW premises and currently they only focus on Thys Auto where they retail between 70 and 80 used vehicles a month still a bit shy of the golden years some decades ago when up to 120 cars were sold in some months.

“We work hard, and my dad put in a huge effort over the years to establish Thys Auto and its solid reputation as a reliable dealership and honest businessman,” says Tonia, his daughter, who joined the business in 2010. Her brother, Renier, joined the business in 2004.

“Our focus at the business is on newer, low mileage vehicles, mainly with factory guarantees and service plans still in place. If there is a problem, we send the car to the OEM for repair. We do a lot of Internet marketing and by far most of our vehicles are sold and delivered outside Upington, across the country with a lot in the broader Northern Cape region,” Tonia tells Dealerfloor.

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Asked about the stock shortage and how they handle it, she says the problem cuts across the board and leads to frustration as getting specific vehicles is a challenge to overcome.

“We do get customers who want to trade in newer, more expensive vehicles for something cheaper to lower their monthly instalments, but it is a difficult process. Our vehicles are bought at auctions, and we look carefully at trade-ins. We also do a bit of wholesale, when necessary.

“Customers are still holding onto their money, as the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the effect of lockdowns are still prevalent. It is harder to convince people to commit to a transaction than in the past, and excellent customer service is the name of the game. Banks are strict with finance approvals and a combination of all the above asks for careful navigation with each transaction,” she says.

“In a town like Upington and the larger region, which includes the Kalahari, bakkies are hugely popular. Unfortunately, used bakkies are scarce and expensive. Smaller cars like Volkswagen’s Polo get a lot of traction here, but low-volume sellers without an OEM dealership close by, is not doing that well.”

Tonia says although they work together as a family, they also get together over weekends and are a close-nit family.

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