• 19 February 2021

Use COVID-protocols as a security measure

The unnerving event at a Cape Town executive car dealership this week, when a gang of thugs arrived in two taxis, threatened staff, and caused massive damage to many cars on the showroom floor, has opened the question of safety at dealerships.

Eugene Herbert chairperson NRSP

Over the years, many salespeople have fallen victim to robbers during so-called test-drives, and this is still a major concern in the industry. But storming a dealership and causing this kind of problem, is new.

A group of protesters did something similar last year when they attacked parked cars at a dealership in Pretoria, and in 2019 40 cars were burnt out by passing protesters in Jeppestown, Johannesburg.

“Although it is clear this week’s incident in Cape Town was unusual and unexpected, it raises the issue of security at dealerships,” says Eugene Herbert, CEO of Masterdrive South Africa, which is mainly focused on driver safety. However, COVID-19 moved the company into a new direction – that of the health and safety of salespeople and customers alike.

The “raid” at The Toy Shop in Brooklyn, Cape Town, which resulted in 8 cars severely damaged after mostly windows were knocked out while a few also had body damage, shed the light on safety at dealerships.

“This incident now highlights the issue of security as well – and I believe COVID-19 protocols hold the answer.

Herbert says because of the pandemic, dealerships had to change their way of doing business without inconveniencing customers. “The same approach should work here,” he says.

Some COVID-19 protocols that will assist security as well, include:

  • Limiting easy entry to the premises such as reducing access points,
  • Educating staff and customers about limited access,
  • Changing towards a more scheduled approach by inviting customers to make appointments.

“With Covid-19 protocol, most of these steps have already been taken by dealerships, such as someone at the main entrance screening customers who arrive. For additional security, maybe post a security guard at the same point, who can keep unannounced visitors at a distance. Change your marketing by inviting customers to make an appointment.

"Control open access points allowing vehicles to enter the premises in an uncontrolled manner by means of a gate with a security guard using proper safety control – not simply asking them if they might have anything in the boot but checking. Don’t simply ask for someone’s name and contact details – ask them to produce legal identification like an ID card or a driver’s license.”

Visitors to private residential estates go through proper screening to avoid unwanted visitors by security guards manning the closed-off entrance, checking ID and even scanning the driver’s and car’s details by means of a portable device.

“Then, all that needs to be done next is to check with a salesperson if they have an appointment with the visitor or get the salesperson to meet the visitor in the event of someone dropping by to get more information or ‘kick the tyres’ of a vehicle that caught their eye,” says Herbert.