The economic impact of the hard lockdown has accelerated the consolidation or even closure of some dealerships, especially in smaller towns and regions, but it seems the Toyota dealership in Bultfontein is holding strong.
speaks to André Olivier, Dealer Principal, at Bultfontein Toyota in the Northern Free State, about halfway between Welkom and Bloemfontein. The dealership is housed in a large older building that was originally developed as a roadhouse and roller-skating rink and it is the only new car dealership in the town.
“Our dependence on the agricultural sector goes without saying. We are thankful that we could keep the dealership open and operating, even during some challenging times. In a town like ours, the economy is under severe pressure. Only recently, for instance, one of the two large agri businesses in town closed their doors.
“The impact of COVID-19 will be felt for some time to come. Initially we had serious challenges to get the necessary permissions to service farmers’ vehicles during the first stages of the lockdown. We are not yet back to the sale levels before COVID-19 and we are working hard to rectify this.
“We are, however, excited about the forecast for this year’s maize production. The aftermath of four years of draught is still visible. Notwithstanding the positive outlook for the agriculture sector, it will take same time to trickle through to all levels of our economy and the car trade,” says André.
He says Bultfontein Toyota’s customer base includes all the surrounding towns and communities like Hertzogville, Hoopstad, Dealesville and Wesselsbron that include some of the biggest maize producers in the country throughout a huge geographical area.
He tells Dealerfloor the Toyota Hilux-bakkie is by far the most popular vehicle they sell. “Percentage wise we might sell around 10% more Hilux-bakkies than a dealership in a bigger metropolitan area. Except for the Hilux that is the backbone of farming communities, the Toyota Land Cruiser does very well in our region too and of course the other star is the Fortuner SUV.”
He says the Xtra Cab is the most popular Hilux variant, followed by the working orientated SRX single cab and then the double cab. The bakkies with higher ground clearance like the SRX, is customers preferred choice because of our deteriorating road conditions.
“Our Automark division for used cars is doing well. The prices of new vehicles force a lot of people that battle with financial issues, to look at used vehicles as alternative transport. Our servicing and parts divisions get the advantage of customers holding on for longer periods to their vehicles rather than replacing it that is not good news for the sale of new vehicles,” André says.
“We had a seed and peanut sales representative whose 2010 Toyota Hilux clocked over 600 000 kilometres with every service been done here. The same goes for a farmer with a 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, also reaching 600 000 kilometres without missing a service,” he told Dealerfloor.
Toyota Bultfontein is a small, independent dealership that was started in the early 1990s by the late Freddie Nel. His son, Cobus Nel, is now the owner but also a full-time farmer in the district.
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