For a new car dealer, the circle begins when a new vehicle leaves the dealer floor. Then the service or maintenance plans, warranties, accessories and repairs come into play for years to come, making a dealership a viable business.
So says Hannes Schreuder, a director and the Dealer Principal at Toyota Robertson in the Western Cape. The dealership just won the much sought after Absa Golden Partner Dealer of the Bank Award for a Franchise Dealer. The other director is Jean Martin who takes care of the after-sales.
“The award is a great achievement for us, and it looks at our business in its totality, taking every aspect into account. It is a wonderful recognition for how we run and do business, and we will most certainly use it in our marketing campaigns,” says Hannes.
“The circle mentioned has been severely damaged by the arrival of the pandemic. Not only did the lockdowns hamper business, but the disruption of the worldwide supply chain seriously disrupted business in the aftermath.
“Now, the violence and looting in parts of South Africa have exacerbated the problem in that it affects the delivery of new vehicles, and it’s just getting bigger, as the backlog grows.
“I have sales executives looking at me every day when they have customers, but we do not have enough stock to supply them. Under normal circumstances we have anything between 25 and 35 new vehicles available. Now we are sometimes stuck with as few as three new cars,” says Hannes.
“We have to survive and work with what we have. We focus strongly on used vehicles which, although expensive, are available and help to drive the business. Thousands fewer new cars sold every month lead to shortages because for every new car sold, you get a trade-in, and the rental market is not up to its original strength.
“Our workshop is running at about 80% of the capacity before the arrival of COVID. We contact owners regularly to get their vehicles into the workshop for servicing and repairs. Robertson is a rural area with the agriculture component our main economic driver, of which the wine industry makes up about 80%. Lockdowns with alcohol bans, like we recently again experienced, is devastating for this industry and for the rest of us.
“When this happens, the demand for new bakkies drops and farmers only do the most urgent repairs and basic servicing. Currently, we have a serious marketing campaign and do around 25% of our business outside our traditional area. We also have other Toyota dealers close by that are obviously competition, but we also work closely together in swopping vehicles to help clients,” he tells Dealerfloor.
Hannes has an interesting and positive outlook on the Right to Repair legislation that still has some OEMs worried. “It is like a two-edged sword. We see an increasing number of owners of different brands who have no representation in our area, bringing their vehicles to us.
“People know we are following the COVID rules clinically and it creates a safe and comfortable feeling for them. Our good reputation and reliable service also contribute to more customers and it bodes well for the future,” Hannes says.
And what does the future hold? “I am positive. I think of all the bad things that happened, a positive outlook and atmosphere of working to together will develop and most important is that this should never happen again. The good will prevail over the ugliness,” says Hannes, a man with a passion for business and deep sea-fishing. “I work to support my hobby!”
Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) kept the wheels rolling this year with the opening of five new dealerships in four provinces.
The latest addition to the Stellantis dealer network is a large, new Super Group multi-franchise facility in Jacaranda Street, Hennopspark, Centurion, for Jeep, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot and Citroën.
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.