Several local car dealerships were asked what they were doing to prepare themselves for the eventual lifting or further relaxation of the lockdown regulations. Generic image.
Date: 07 May 2020 By: Andries van Zyl
As the government relaxed the Covid-19 lockdown regulations from Level 5 to Level 4 on 1 May, more and more businesses have slowly but surely been waking up from their forced lockdown slumber to get ready to do business again.
Several local car dealerships were asked what they were doing to prepare themselves for the eventual lifting or further relaxation of the lockdown regulations.
“It is a difficult time for our businesses, but I have faith that we will get through the crisis,” said Mr Rampie Gilfillan, dealer principal for the Ford, Mazda and Kia dealerships in Louis Trichardt.
From a company perspective, several measures have been implemented at all these dealerships to not only ensure customer safety, but also the safety of staff members to prevent them from getting infected by the virus. These measures, among others, include increased hand washing, hand sanitisation and ensuring social distancing within their offices and workshops. Hand sanitisers will also be provided in visible locations on counters and easily accessible locations for technicians. Personal contact, such as the shaking of hands, is to be avoided, as well as personal interaction, where possible. Clear signage will also be placed at the service reception, offices, and the workshop about the precautions the dealership is taking and the expected behaviour from both staff and customers to minimise risk, including health notices placed in prominent areas for guests’ information
“All these regulations will be in place when we open again,” said Gilfillan. He added, however, that they were already making use of these measures during the Level 5 period as they could do essential repairs on vehicles. “With the relaxation of the regulations to Level 4, we are now also allowed to do emergency repairs, such as a wheel bearing giving problems, on all vehicles,” said Gilfillan. Regarding emergency repairs, Gilfillan added that some of the Level 4 regulation were still very vague. “But this is how we understand things at this stage,” he said.
As for new and second-hand vehicle sales, the showrooms remain closed. This does not, however, mean that they cannot sell new or second-hand vehicles. “You can do the whole transaction and finalise the contract, but you are not allowed to deliver the vehicle,” said Gilfillan. He was optimistic that this situation might change by Wednesday this week. “In the meantime, we are available online via our website and Facebook page. Our customers are welcome to visit these sites for frequent updates,” said Gilfillan.
In the border town of Musina, similar safety measures were introduced at the Messina Toyota dealership. “Whilst we continue to stay at home during the national lockdown, we are busy planning for that day when we are all back on the road again. The current situation with regard to the spread of the Covid-19 virus will change the way our dealership will operate going forward. The safety and well-being of our guests and staff are of the utmost importance to us and will remain our number one priority going into the future,” said the general manager of the dealership, Jaco van der Merwe, in a letter to all their clients.
Van der Merwe indicated that, for the next few weeks, the dealership would focus on preparing their facility, operations and staff to ensure that they provided clients with service that met all the required standards for the prevention of the spread of the virus. Some of the items they will be focusing on are the following: access to the dealership for both guests and staff; sanitisation of facilities, vehicles, tooling, furniture, hands, etc; how to ensure social distancing; limiting the interactions required with their team (e.g. collecting vehicles for service, test drives from guest’s home); cashless transactions; and the training of their staff on the new operating procedures.
“It is our intention to spend the days until the lockdown is over finalising ways to ensure that, when you visit us again, you know that your safety is in good hands. We look forward to connecting with you in the near future when we are all back on the road again,” stated Van der Merwe.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.