Motor vehicle dealers well prepared for reopening of sales, repairs and services
CAPE TOWN – Motor vehicle dealers in South Africa selling both new and used vehicles said they were well prepared for the reopening of sales following an announcement by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel allowing car dealers to resume business, which was halted when the country embarked on a lockdown in 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.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which NADA has more than 1 300 members and makes up 85 percent of all new vehicle franchise dealerships in South Africa, released its statement just before an announcement by the Presidency that President Cyril Ramaphosa would address the nation at 8:30pm on Wednesday.
There have been growing calls for more relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions after the government implemented a risk-adjusted strategy to reopen the economy in a phased manner joust over two weeks ago.
NADA chairperson Mark Dommisse said a limited number of personnel in the various dealerships had been preparing the facilities in terms of the stringent Covid-19 virus sanitation and safety rules since this was permitted, basically from Level 4.
“The new directive will permit the buying of new and used vehicles, trade-ins and vehicle servicing. All arrangements with the dealerships, including test drives, will be by appointment,” he said.
Vehicle manufacturing, under strict limitations, has been permitted since May 1, and component and vehicle makers are ramping up production in terms of strict government regulations.
“Dealers are a vital cog in the entire automotive ecosystem which includes interaction with a host of partners such as the finance houses and service providers including marketing support and vehicle transport companies.
“It is going to take some time to get all the systems and processes up and running, particularly as only 30 percent of employees are allowed on dealer premises from 13 to 23 May, after which the staff complement can be lifted to 60 percent until June 6, when full staffing is permitted,” said Dommisse.
Dommisse said initially the majority of interactions between dealer personnel and customers would be conducted digitally via the internet, eCommerce or telephone and personal contact would be kept to a minimum and only by appointment in strict hygiene and social distancing conditions.
He said home delivery of vehicles with full sanitisation would be mandatory and roadworthy assessment and testing centres would now be open to facilitate the sale of used vehicles.
The national lockdown has taken a heavy toll on all sectors of the local motor industry and saw retail vehicle sales in April declined by a whopping 98.4 percent compared with April 2019. The effect on built-up vehicle exports was massive too, with a plunge of 97.3 percent and only 901 vehicles shipped.
The automotive industry is not only a major contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – almost 7 percent in 2019 – but also a major taxpayer.