Doing business in the arid Karoo can be challenging at the best of times.
The area surrounding Beaufort West, unofficially described as the capital of the Great Karoo, has been struggling with a long dry spell, which has severely impacted the area’s farmers. As with many other dealerships, the COVID-19 pandemic has added insult to injury and forced the team at Beaufort West Toyota to tighten their belts.
“Since my arrival here in 2014, I have not seen the Karoo in a “normal” setting because of the long-lasting drought. We had rain recently in certain areas but to recover from the severity of such a drought will take years of normality in terms of rainfall,” says Kobus Botes, Dealer Principal of Beaufort West Toyota.
“A number of farmers have thrown in the towel, while others have drastically scaled down their farming activities. It has had an influence on business where a very big part of our economic activity is related to the agricultural sector.
“The majority of our sales are bakkies and anything that impacts the demand for bakkies, will have an impact on us. Add to that the pandemic and the challenges we are facing here are not remote and infrequent, but close and everywhere,” he says.
“The impact here and in our exceptionally large area of responsibility means owners, be they farmers or people in other occupations, drive less, take longer to service their vehicles and buy fewer parts, all that affects our workshop on top of challenges with sales and stock availability.
“But is not all gloom and doom,” says Kobus.
“Notwithstanding this, I am optimistic and the circumstances we found ourselves in created new opportunities. With less stock available, discounting vehicles just to move them, is something of the past at this stage, which translates into more profitable transactions.
“We were also forced to tighten our belts at the dealership. We take a closer look at every aspect of the business to ensure nothing goes to waste en look at every detail. Toyota has always been actively involved in the community and that is part of our success.
“We are still involved and will always be, but these days it is important to ensure we get a proper return on investment in terms of sponsorships and other forms of involvement. Our presence at events and putting our name and brand out there are now more important than ever before,” Kobus says.
“We are also nurturing our business with other sectors apart from agriculture, including government departments and local authorities. Add to this new emphasis on customer satisfaction and excellent client relationships, and combined with factors mentioned earlier, it is the way forward.”
Kobus is no newcomer to the motor retail industry and especially not to the Toyota brand. He grew up in Bloemfontein where his mother, Magda, was the Sales Manager at Oranje Toyota. Later she was appointed Sales Manager at Algoa Toyota in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). His brother is currently the Sales Manager at Melrose Toyota.
Kobus went on to spend a year in the USA and on his return started as a driver at Oranje Toyota in Bloemfontein, working his way up to a Sales Executive at the new-car section. In 2005, he started as Dealer Principal at Oranje Toyota in Hartswater and moved on to different Toyota dealerships before returning to Oranje Toyota in Bloemfontein as Sales Manager.
In 2014, an opportunity presented itself, and Kobus with two partners, Gysie Pienaar en Aleeshen Kisten, bought the Toyota dealership in Beaufort West. Kobus’s wife, Caryn, is the Financial Manager at the dealership.
When not selling cars, he enjoys Iron Man Competitions (he has done five already) and taking part in events like the Two Oceans Marathon.
Despite the severe drought in large parts of the Karoo, the motor business in Graaff-Reinet is stepping up with more brands being represented in this part of the world.
If a pandemic and stock issues aren’t enough of a challenge, why not add a building project/dealership revamp/moving of facilities and getting a second dealership to full independent dealership status to a DP’s list of tasks.
Scott Auto Mazda in Bethlehem has a proud history that stretches back nearly 50 years, which makes them one of the best-known Mazda dealers in the Free State.