Your busines’ future is inextricably tied to that of your surroundings, says Gavin Lourens, Dealer Principal of Actions Ford’s two branches in Lichtenburg and Zeerust in North West.
“If we don’t do something about our immediate environment and the roads leading to our showrooms, we might suffer losses because the area and roads are becoming less conducive for customers and potential customer to come in our direction,” he says.
“Lichtenburg, where the main branch of the two dealerships is located, is suffering from a severe shortage of services related to the upkeep of the infrastructure that has a major influence on all businesses in the town.
“For this reason, we started an initiative a couple of years ago to maintain the area around our dealership. We painted stripes on the roads and for the parking area, we painted the traffic lights and started to fill the potholes not only around us, but also of important roads feeding traffic past our showroom,” Gavin told Dealerfloor.
He says they do not want people to travel alternative routes, avoiding the dealership because of bad roads. “We have also seen other businesses taking similar action which benefits every-one. In Zeerust our dealership is smaller, but we are also maintaining a good and clean environment there for our customers.
“I told my staff that we cannot change the cards we have been dealt, but we can surely decide how to play them and that has become a philosophy,” he says.
Gavin says the community's involvement also differs between the two branches. “In Lichtenburg, our emphasis will be on actions such as assisting institutions like the local SPCA while in Zeerust we help churches that play an important role in different community projects.
Both Ford dealers were part of the Action Motor Group which was taken over about a year ago by the CFAO Motors SA group.
But getting back to selling Fords in the North Western part of the country, Gavin says the lockdown had a more severe impact on the dealership in Zeerust. “We do a lot of business in Botswana selling new cars, parts and servicing vehicles.
“Cross-border business has come to a halt since the lockdown. With the borders only opening recently, we can see the effect with business starting to pick up and they are working hard with the aim of getting back to pre-COVID levels.”
The Zeerust dealership is only about 90 km from the Botswana border and, except for one or two larger feedlots, the bulk of business is with game farms in the region.
In Lichtenburg feedlots, several big crop and livestock farms, as well as three cement factories, NWK co-operative’s head office and Clover are some of the bigger industries playing a substantial role in the local economy.
That the Ford Ranger plays an important role in both branches’ sales volumes because of the region and the type of businesses in the area, goes without saying.
The Lichtenburg dealership has an interesting history with selling Ford-products since the Thirties.
Gavin says that in those years Ford tractors and implements were sold from their premises and it later became Western Ford and still sold Ford tractors for several years. In 1981 it became a Ford dealership and through the years the fuel pumps made space for a new showroom and a number of other changes on the premises over decades.
It is not only the Ford premises that have an interesting history, but Gavin himself followed an unlikely route to where he is today.
“I was the Managing Director of a Microsoft ERP reseller based in Johannesburg. After 25 years in the IT world, I became a business consultant for the Action Motor Group and then, like they say, the rest is history,” he says.
But being a petrol head made the transition from the IT world to the car retail world easy. “I am an avid motorcycle fan and took part in local and national super bike racing in South Africa. I was privileged to race the day before South Africa’s first MotoGP in the Phakisa Freeway on the outskirts of Welkom in 1999 in a support race on the Saturday after the MotoGP qualifying.
I also had the honour – although I did not realise it at that stage – of assisting a young Brad Binder, South Africa’s current hope in MotoGP – to stay on his bike before a 50 cc-class race. He was just a kid and his legs could not reach the ground. I had to hold his bike up at the back for the start of the race, so that he did not topple over,” says Gavin with a big smile.
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.
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