You need high octane fuel in your veins when doing business in rural and even smaller urban areas these days. Marius du Toit is a car dealer not afraid of the challenges associated with the decline of rural towns. He also has a keen interest in the motor trade doing business on-line. Marius is the managing Director of the 4Wheels Motor Group with branches in Vryburg, Lichtenburg and Mahikeng (previously known as Mafikeng) in North West.
Dealerfloor spoke to Marius.
1: Tell us a bit more about the 4Wheels Motor Group.
It all started about 34 years ago with my dad, John du Toit in the motor trade. Today we have dealerships for Mitsubishi, Nissan, Datsun (last year’s Dealer of the Year for the brand), Hyundai, and new acquisitions include Iveco, FAW and JAC. I am the majority shareholder, assisted by five senior personnel, and we have 120 employees.
2: What is the state of affairs in the towns you are doing business in, taking the current COVID-19 pandemic into account?
We are privileged so far because in rural areas farmers are doing well notwithstanding the circumstances, and Mahikeng is the seat of the provincial government, the largest employer in the area.
3: What are the challenges running a business in a rural town?
The decay of government institutions and service delivery problems in rural towns are of serious concern to us. Sometimes, we are not able to register vehicles because the offices are closed. The same goes for getting police clearance for vehicles.
Instead of communicating problems they might have with us, you encounter closed offices without knowing the reasons.
The advantages running dealerships in rural towns are that you need a smaller staff complement compared to big towns and cities. You can very effectively run a dealership with ten people.
Relationships are also more personal with a near family feeling between customer and client, unlike in a big city where volume-driven business does not quite allow for it. In a rural town, you bump into customers at the shop and even become friends.
4: How long before firing on all cylinders again?
Probably about two years, although we are at about 90% of what it was before the pandemic.
We should have shown growth already with a number of models and the extra products our group offers. I was hoping for a growth figure of about 150% but now we have to make up the 60% shortfall, hopefully within the next two years.
5: Are customers buying down or would they rather go used to still get all the “bells and whistles”?
Our market is definitely looking at cheaper vehicles when people trade in their current wheels. But we still have a couple of luxury car buyers in our business areas. Younger buyers are looking for all the gadgets, and things like Apple CarPlay and satnav are very important to them.
6: What do you do in your spare time?
We recently moved down to the Western Cape, and we are still exploring the region when time permits.
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