Sidestepping obstacles in Pinetown with honesty

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.

CMH Pine2

The motor retail industry has already taken a beating from the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath in terms of constant stock shortages owing to the interruption of the supply chain. The recent unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal added another serious hurdle on the path to economic recovery.

Dealerfloor spoke to Rob about business conditions in the aftermath of all the obstacles placed in their way and how they managed it.

“We had to close our business for a week, and in the following week we still had to deal with the unease in town and in the province. Add this downtime and the effect of thousands of job losses to the struggle around stock shortages worldwide and navigating business becomes a serious challenge.

From left: Gordon Wood (ABSA KZN Regional Manager) handing over the Award to Robs Downs form CMH Pinetown.

“For me the important aspect is that none of our staff were harmed in the unrest, and our premises were spared any damage. Infrastructure and belongings can be replaced, but not human lives. The fact that we are all here and can continue, is something I am very thankful for,” says Rob.

Rob says the job losses and businesses relocating will have an impact on the region’s economy, but it is too early to predict the severity of how this will play out.

He says despite everything that happened, the light at the end of the tunnel is the stream of new products Nissan has planned for local release during the rest of this year and the first half of 2022.

“I have never seen so much excitement about the brand in terms of the quality, value for money and spectrum of new vehicles coming from Nissan. One of the most important introductions will be that of the new Navara single cab bakkie that will also be manufactured locally.

“On the Mitsubishi side of the business, new products create excitement, and the brand is getting more and more traction as its dealer network expands. The used car business under our Select Used Cars banner is doing well, although good used vehicles and high prices bring their own challenges,” he says.

“We are seeing an improvement in stock availability but for now we have to make do with what we have. As the stock arrive, we deliver them immediately, which is very good for business. The challenge is to manage customers’ expectations. Be honest with customers so that they do not have the wrong assumption that could harm our reputation in the long run,” Rob tells Dealerfloor.

CMH Nissan & Mitsubishi in Pinetown.
The CMH Nissan & Mitsubishi Dealership in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal.

Rob says communication with customers during this time is a crucial aspect. “Even if the news on availability of a certain product is not good news, we tell the truth. The reality is what it is, and the customer has the right to know what the situation is.

He tells Dealerfloor CMH is involved in a range of different projects from the famous ski-boat festival in Durban to rural school projects where talent for industry is also identified and learners are assisted in many ways.

“The nature of the business has changed. You have to right-size your business, change job descriptions and be productive like never before. That is the route to survival,” he concludes the interview.

  • The dealership has won numerous awards over the last couple of years, ranging from Dealer of The Year and other awards within the CMH group, to awards from the relevant manufacturers and financing banks. In the most recent award, the dealership was the runner-up in Absa Golden Dealer of the Year Award in the category for mega franchise dealers.
  • Rob started his career in the motor retail business 18 years ago as a Sales Executive at CMH Nissan Pinetown in the used car department, he was offered the used car manager’s job at the CMH Fiat & Alfa Romeo dealership and later became the DP for 6 years and went on to be the DP for the group’s GM dealership in Umhlanga. From there he moved to CMH Nissan and CMH Mitsubishi Pinetown as DP six years ago.

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