Phase 1 to 3: How SA car dealers are adapting to the new normal

By Willem van de Putte Time of article published May 20, 2020

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Johannesburg - It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

With apologies to Star Trekkin’,  that’s what we’ll be facing for the foreseeable future as the world gets to grips with living in a Corona-19 world.

It will affect everything we do in no small measure, whether it be in a professional or social capacity. Anything we buy will have certain protocols attached to them all in an attempt to protect us and those that serve us.

It will be the same, too, if you’re in the fortunate position to be able to buy a car.

For this reason, vehicle manufacturers have had to put measures in place as restrictions are slowly being lifted under certain lockdown levels designed to mitigate potential risks.

It’s been a three-phased approach, with Phase 1 allowing dealers to operate with up to 30 percent of their employees until Saturday.

Strict social distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks and daily screening of employees will be the order of the day.

During level 4, all visitors and customers will be required to sign a register, and no children will be allowed into dealerships.

All vehicles will be sanitised after any service visit or test drives. Vehicles on the sales floor will also be regularly disinfected.

Phase 2 kicks in from May 25 to June 6, and will allow dealerships to operate with up to 60 percent of their employees. Limited customers will be allowed to enter dealerships under strict hygiene and social distancing guidelines, and remote vehicle sales will continue for customers with access to online services. On-site pick-ups and deliveries of fully sanitised cars will be allowed, with an option of home delivery, if possible.

Phase 3, which runs from June 8 until alert level 4 is lifted, allows dealerships to operate with its full staff complement. On-site customer contact will be allowed, but will be kept to a minimum.

At Ford dealers, anyone entering the premises will have their temperature checked with no-touch infrared thermometers, and will be required to wear a mask at all times.

The dealership floor plan, including customer waiting areas, will be re-organised to ensure appropriate social distancing. Hand sanitiser dispensers will be available, particularly in high visibility and high traffic areas.

“We’re keen to have things start returning to normal across our dealer network following a phased-in approach announced by the government,” said Neale Hill, Managing director of  Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“While opening our dealerships to provide in-person vehicle sales and service in the weeks ahead is a welcome move forward. Our aim is to work very closely with each of our dealers to ensure we are providing the safest and most sanitary environment possible,” Hill said.

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At Toyota South Africa Motors, dealers had to initiate preparatory measures to ensure a safe environment for both employees and customers.

This included fumigation and disinfection before being set up for the “new normal”.

Other measures included cordoning off all customer refreshment stations, the removal of brochures and magazines on shelves and tables, as well as employee education about Covid-19 and the institution of cleaning and disinfection protocols.

The majority of its auto-retail activities will be conducted remotely via the internet, e-commerce or telephone.

Visits to the dealer for test drives and other unforeseen emergencies will be by appointment only with strict hygiene and social distancing conditions.

Paying in cash is discouraged in favour of EFTs, cheques, credit card Tap & Go as well as apps such as Snapscan and Zapper.

Home delivery of vehicles is now mandatory, and all sanitising protocols will be followed before cars are delivered to customers.

At this stage though licensing and roadworthy stations are not open yet.

It’s clear that the virus has turned everything we know upside down, and for vehicle manufacturers, this has meant a completely new approach to how they conduct their business for the foreseeable future.

Drive360

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