Namaqualand is an unforgiving region, and during the current prolonged drought, farmers can suffer. It can also be a paradise in the flower season bringing much needed tourists to this remote part of the country.
It is much the same with business conditions in the motor retail industry today with stock shortages creating havoc on the new car sales side. However, a dedicated team, a busy workshop and parts department and a continuous daily search for good pre-owned cars bring a favourable balance to the survival of dealerships in rural areas.
Dealerfloor spoke to Albert Maritz, Dealer Principal at Springbok Toyota in the far western part of the Northern Cape. Springbok and the dealership’s area of responsibility is vast, wedged in between the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Namibian border in the north, the border of the Western Cape province in the south and Pofadder in the east.
“The drought has been hampering the agriculture sector for many years now. The pandemic also took a heavy toll, especially with the tourist industry, which is a major contributor to the region’s economy.
“In the heydays, farmers did a lot of cash transactions when buying vehicles. Lately, we see more and more farmers opting for finance because of difficult conditions in the area. Sometimes this creates problems as some of them have no credit record. At a local level, we are involved with different farmers’ associations and through Toyota South Africa with delivering feed for livestock.
“One of our saving graces is the ongoing mining activities and the possibility of reviving some old copper mines in the district. We have huge mining operations in the region where different minerals like silver, lead copper and zinc, and even diamonds are mined.
“We have a fully-fledged workshop at one of the mines with 14 staff members looking after the mine’s fleet of Land Cruisers and Hiluxes. This is a unique set-up as the Cruisers are serviced every 2 to 4 weeks,” Albert tells Dealerfloor.
“The Land Cruisers are used in the mines under extremely harsh conditions that include spending most of their time in mud and water and other adverse conditions. The Cruisers are also equipped with expensive fail-safe brake systems, imported from the USA as the use of these vehicles is business-critical,” he says.
“Our business was hit hard by COVID as about 25% of our workshop customers come from Namibia. With the tight restrictions, we lost a lot of this customers, but we try to make up for it with our continued effort at the different mines.”
Alberts says it is not just a good, solid team at the dealership that makes the difference but also the that way the owners look after their staff. “We are a private dealership, owned by two partners, Elmar Strauss, who also lives in Springbok, and Ben Lazarus who is based in Cape Town. When times are tough and challenges big, it is people who make the difference.”
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