"It is all about the performance of the dealership and about relationships. Relationships between our clients and us and between the bank and us."
So says Gerhard van Zyl, Dealer Principal at NTT Volkswagen East London, about taking top honours for the second year in a row at the Absa Franchise Dealer of the Year Awards in the category for Mega Dealerships.
“We have won this award a number of times before, and we are honoured to make it to the top during an immensely difficult year for the vehicle industry, not only locally but internationally owing to the pandemic,” says Gerhard.
“Reaching pre-COVID levels was the aim, and a big effort went into keeping our workshop as busy as possible, which also stimulates our parts department. Our used division plays an ever-increasing important role in the business, seeing that new stock is limited,” he says.
Asked about the recent riots, Gerhard says the Eastern Cape was fortunate to be spared the violence and looting that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
“Notwithstanding this, a lot of imports from harbours in KwaZulu-Natal, are now delaying a variety of goods, which creates problems on top of the problems caused by the pandemic. One example is the specific oil we use in our vehicles, and we are just fortunate that we have a reasonable stockpile of it,” Gerhard says.
Gerhard reckons that the economic environment in East London is good and that the local economy is largely driven by the plant of another German Automaker in the city producing cars for the local and export markets.
“There are a number of businesses related to the manufacturing plant in the region and a manufacturer of bumpers for the Polo and Vivo models produced locally. We are also a strong growing region for citrus fruit as well as some vegetables and livestock, like cattle for milk and meat.
“I mentioned the Polo and Vivo, which are still our volume sellers, and the smaller crossovers or SUVs like the T-Roc and T-Cross are popular here as well,” says Gerhard.
“Our area of responsibility is quite large and stretches to the other side of Mthatha and includes a number of smaller towns. The area is big and takes an effort to get to all our customers. We are fortunate that about 70% of our sales are in our region, which bodes well for our workshop with the remaining 30% sold elsewhere.”
Talking about the dealership, Gerhard says they consolidated the staff component as vacancies occurred, and with the new technology, multi-skilled workers can do more than one task. “Although we share the premises with our Audi stablemate, we only share the washing bay, and the two dealerships are run independently.”
When asked about the challenges for the industry, Gerhard highlights the breaking of the pandemic and the correcting of the supply chain problems associated with it. “I believe the recent violence and looting caused a crisis we cannot afford, and it must never happen again. I would like to see more price stability as a weak rand creates havoc with pricing and makes it difficult for local customers.
“I am optimistic that the people of the country can stand together to beat a crisis like we have just seen. At a dealership level, I can just lead, I cannot do everything myself and this is where the great team at NTT comes into play,” he concludes.
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