There are plenty of challenges in the motor retail business today, but also plenty opportunities. With the right team, the right products and the right service, you can turn the challenges around.
This is exactly what Shaun Lönn strives to achieve at the Maritime Motors’ Honda and GWM/Haval dealerships in George in the southern Cape.
Shaun was appointed as the new Dealer Principal a year ago after a successful four-and-a-half-year stint at We Buy Cars Midstream branch in Midrand/Centurion.
“It was a swift step from the mass pre-owned supermarket to the more focused world of new brands,” says Shaun. “The aim of the game stays the same – selling vehicles to customers and delivering a good customer experience, although the business models are vastly different.
“The environment in George is quite different with a more established and traditional customer base. The Honda brand has always been extremely popular here, and the latest product offering, like the new Fit, has garnered renewed interest.
“GWM was always a much smaller part of the business, but the acquisition during 2020 of the Haval brand and the new products from both brands, make a very compelling case when looking for something unique with a keen sense of value for money well equipped and capable.
“In an area with more traditional buying patterns, it was the new products – like the Haval Jolion and H6 and the GWM P-Series bakkies – that resulted in a breakthrough for the brands here with an ever-increasing demand,” says Shaun.
“I am also immensely proud of our workshop. We have an excellent reputation, and we are now open every second Saturday for servicing and after sales. We do, in fact, also service models from other brands, which speak volumes about the dedication of our workshop team. A well-known used car dealer makes use of us to checking his vehicles and repairing them, if necessary,” he tells Dealerfloor.
Shaun says the motor industry is one of the largest employers and job creators in South Africa and that people should recognise its importance. “Even the person at the washing bay is part of the motor industry. Like everyone else, people in this industry are putting food on their tables with a job, a commitment to service, establishing careers and the survival of the industry. To survive is more than just a sale. It is building a relationship of trust to ensure a customer is in it for the long run.”
Where the used side of many dealerships is a challenge owing to low sales volumes, which means a dwindling number of trade-inns, Shaun says they are blessed in this regard. “We do not have to constantly search for used vehicles as our trade-inns with the availability of the new models are still reasonably healthy. We have doubled our used car parc over the last couple of months.”
What does the future hold in George in light of all the challenges the workers and the motor industry face at this stage? “The pandemic did hit our important tourism sector hard. We see a recovery in this sector and now it will take time for it to grow again.
“What is to our advantage is the constant flocking of people from the inland to this region to either retire of open up shop here. That stimulates the local economy tremendously, and we are thankful for that,” Shaun concludes.
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