Despite some serious economic blows, a fair amount of positiveness remains in Lephalale (previously Ellisras) in the north western corner of Limpopo, close to the Botswana border.
had a chat with André Lötter, Dealer Principal at Tamboti Toyota, about business conditions in the town and region known for eco-tourism, game farming, hunting, coal mining and the much talked about Medupi Power Station. Medupi is considered one the ten largest coal-fired power stations in the world.
“It is no secret that conditions are tough in our area and unfortunately the motor trade experienced its fair share of hardship.
“Towards 2019, most contractors – and we talk about around 19 000 people – started leaving as the Medupi project drew to a close. A lot of buying power left and then shortly after that, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived creating havoc with our strong tourism and hunting industries. These industries account for roughly a third of business.
“And in the aftermath on the pandemic, it is now the chronic stock shortages that are hampering business in a serious way. We also had the added problem of when the borders with neighbouring states are closed, we lose some of the business from our Botswana clients, primarily on the servicing side and to a lesser extent on sales. We worked hard to try and get the workshop to full capacity again,” says André.
“The stock shortage of new vehicles has a negative impact on the used-vehicle side of the business. Used cars fetch crazy prices with limited manoeuvring for dealers in terms of getting finance and selling at a competitive price to still make a profit. On the new side, discounting vehicles are also more difficult.
“The low interest rate did help a lot to stimulate a weak market, and we are thankful for that and off course for being part of the Toyota family. I must say I am glad to be involved with this manufacturer and dealership during these times as they walk the road with us.
“The message during difficult times is to treat customers like gold. They are our bread and butter in good and bad times. To make sure the customers get the best possible experience and assistance in these abnormal times, your team around you need to be focused. We have the best team one can ask for,” according to him.
“As a DP you must hold the reins firmly in one hand but you must also have empathy and understanding as well as a good relationship with your colleagues to make sure everything is done to keep the business going.
“In a rural environment like ours, staying involved with the community is of the utmost importance. We are picking up the ropes so to speak to get our involvement back to pre-COVID levels. We are part of this community in all respects, our clients are the people in your children’s schools, who you bump into at the shops and sit next to in church.
“They are the people who buy our products, and I am a proud member of this community,” André tells Dealerfloor.
And live in the environment he surely does, so it comes as no surprise that André’s favourite way to relax is in nature with or without a gun. Hunting is his favourite pastime, he says with a chuckle in his voice, and he concludes that, “We can’t leave here, there are no Kudus in Australia.”
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