MOTORING NEWS - The migration of dealerships out of small towns has left many motorists inconvenienced and incurring extra costs to have their vehicles serviced.
"Many dealerships have closed down in the smaller towns due to the poor economic situation in South Africa," says Gunther Schmitz, chairman of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA). "This means motorists with vehicles under warranty in these small towns are forced to have their vehicles serviced in the bigger towns and cities. This is not only inconvenient, but can be costly too."
While there are some dealerships that offer a service to customers in smaller towns where they collect the vehicle and a loan vehicle is left for the motorist's use, this mainly applies to fleet owners and the likes.
"What doesn't make sense is that in many, if not most, of these smaller towns there are independent workshops that are able and willing to service these vehicles. Unfortunately, due to the current status quo in the country, the vehicle owners do not have a choice but to use these out-of-town dealerships or risk losing their warranties," says Schmitz.
R2RSA is advocating for a change which will give consumers the right to have their vehicles repaired at a workshop of their choice.
Andy Goetsch, says while still an owner of a dealership, he realised that manufacturers were making it more and more difficult for dealerships in smaller towns.
"The manufacturers began demanding too much from dealerships in terms of building specifications, furniture and so on. It made it difficult for dealerships in small towns to survive. The manufacturers responded by closing the dealerships," he says.
Goetsch shares a story of a couple who bought a vehicle from a dealership while living in Pretoria. "They were then transferred to Springbok in the Northern Cape for work. After a few months it was time to service their car. They realised that the nearest dealership was in Cape Town - over 550 kilometres away. They had to take two days off work to have their car's oil and filters changed."
Besides the inconvenience and cost, Schmitz believes motorists should be supporting existing and potential small and medium enterprises (SME).
"This is key to job creation globally. Part of the reason the South African economy is where it is today is because of economic concentration," he says.
"Consumers need affordable and convenient repairs. We need to discourage unroadworthy vehicles on our roads. By opening up the market to independent workshops and offering consumers a choice, there will be a drop in prices as competition increases," he says.
"If things continue as they are, there's a very good chance that in less than 10 years the independent aftermarket will be significantly reduced due to no access to repair information, tools and training.
"The workshops in smaller towns will most probably be the first to close their doors. The time for change is now and we will continue advocating for change while waiting for the Automotive Code of Conduct to be finalised."
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