Doing business in Pietermaritzburg became more difficult after the looting and rioting that swept through KwaZulu-Natal recently.
It did not deter the folks at Kia, Mahindra and Mitsubishi PMB in the city to get on with the task at hand. The independent dealership has 56 staff members, selling the three brands, with two workshops and a used car section. The facility is located in the centre of town and is split by a road between them.
The dealership belongs to Peter Hylton and Dean Hayman and was awarded the winner in the Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance Golden Partner Awards in the category for Small Franchise Dealers. Peter is involved in the daily running of the dealership while his partner, Dean, looks after other business interests in Durban.
Dealerfloor spoke to Shaneen van Lelyveld, General Manager at the dealership, about the value of winning the award and business conditions in the region.
“We were fortunate to be spared physical harm and destruction at our dealerships, but a mere two blocks away from us, it was a different story. Dealing with the after-effects of the violence is a challenge as many people are still nervous to venture into town for business.
“To counter this, our sales executives take vehicles to potential customers. Customer relations are of the utmost importance to us, and no dealer can afford to lose a customer. The tension is still tangible in Pietermaritzburg, but we hope for a return to normality as soon as possible.
“We have customers in and around the city, including from the agriculture sector, and we do business further afield. Our dealership has a great reputation in Pietermaritzburg and the larger region. The prestigious award we have just won from Absa and numerous other awards from our brand manufactures for our workshops, especially from Kia and Mahindra, are testimony to this fact,” says Shaneen.
“We are very proud of the Absa Award, a first for us and recognition for the work we do. We will definitely capitalise on this in our marketing campaigns.”
Shaneen says the business kicked off in 2005 with Mahindra. Over the years, Mahindra dealerships in a few surrounding towns were also opened but they were consolidated at later stage to the one in Pietermaritzburg. Shortly thereafter Kia and Mitsubishi were added to the portfolio.
“On top of our recent setback in the province, we also have to deal with the fallout of COVID in terms of stock shortages, which create their own havoc in doing business. The used car market is subject to prices that are in many cases well above the trade price you must pay just to obtain stock.
“On the new car side, getting stock that was ordered is just not happening with all models at this stage and we have some backlogs. I think there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope the supply chain problems will be rectified sooner rather than later,” she says.
Shaneen says as General Manager, she has the three brand managers reporting to her and she also oversees the total running of all divisions of the business. “I have an interesting career path to where I find myself today.
“I am a trained teacher and only spent about five years in education. I then joined my late husband in the restaurant business for around 30 years before venturing into the car retail business, which has become my career and life,” she adds.
“I enjoy it tremendously and at the dealership we are more like a family. Peter Hylton is very much hands on, and his business is very well run from top to bottom and is one of the reasons for our success.”
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.