South Africa's trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel. File photo: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
South Africa's trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel. File photo: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

SA auto industry welcomes green light for car dealers to re-open

By ANA Reporter Time of article published May 13, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) on Wednesday welcomed the move by trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel to allow car dealers to resume business which was halted when the country embarked on a lockdown in late March to combat Covid-19.

Patel announced late on Tuesday that the dealership network across the country could cautiously resume operations while taking care to reduce the risk of infection across the entire automotive value chain.

On Wednesday NAAMSA president Tim Abbott said the industry supported the directives outlined and announced by Patel.

"The risk of this virus to spread is real and this is something we have embraced and it is part of all our business planning," Abbott said in a statement.

"We are very pleased that the minister has heard our plea and we are also very grateful that our teams across all different brands and channels have collaborated seamlessly through NAAMSA."

Under the new directives, during the first phase from May 13 to May 23 all dealerships and used car outlets will operate with up to 30 percent of their workers, with the majority of car sales done remotely via the internet or eCommerce or telephone.

Personal contact will be kept to a minimum and only on appointment under very strict hygiene and physical distancing conditions.

Test drives will be conducted on appointment only, home delivery of vehicles with full sanitisation will be mandatory and were possible electronic or virtual signatures will be used for finance and insurance documents.

In phase two from May 25 to June 6, all dealerships and used car outlets will be allowed to operate with up to 60 percent of employees and a limited number of customers will be permitted to enter dealerships.

Remote vehicle sales will continue for customers with access to online services and on site pick-ups and deliveries of fully sanitised cars will be allowed, with an option for home delivery if possible.

Last week data from NAAMSA showed new vehicle sales in South Africa plunged by 98.4 percent to 574 units in April compared with the same month last year, reflecting the impact of the national lockdown to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.

The lockdown brought most business activity in the country to a virtual standstill from March 27, with only essential services including pharmacies and supermarkets selling food and other necessary day-to-day items allowed to operate. From May 1, lockdown regulations were relaxed to allow more businesses to reopen on a limited basis.

The automotive industry is key to South Africa's economy, contributing about 6.9 percent to gross domestic product.

- African News Agency (ANA)

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