Dealers still don't know whether they're allowed to sell cars

Car dealers were ready to open their doors again on Monday, but were unsure of whether they were allowed to sell cars.
Car dealers were ready to open their doors again on Monday, but were unsure of whether they were allowed to sell cars.
Image: Denis Droppa

Motor dealers opened for business on Monday morning not knowing whether they’re allowed to sell cars.

Last week the government announced that dealers were among the business sectors allowed to trade from May 1 under level 4 of the risk-adjusted Covid-19 strategy. It said car sales were allowed under “specific conditions”, but as of Monday morning it had yet to specify what those conditions were.

The only certainty is that motor dealers are allowed to carry out emergency vehicle repairs under level 4, while routine servicing may only start taking place under level 2.

Last week the motor industry lobbied the government to allow for the reopening of car dealerships when SA entered level 4 of lockdown on May 1, after government initially decreed that motor dealerships would only be allowed to resume the selling of vehicles when SA moves to level 3.

When lockdown restrictions are eased, car dealerships should be among the first businesses to start work to help get the economy’s wheels turning, said the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (Nada) last week.

“The motor industry plays a critical role in getting people, products and services to market,” said Mark Dommisse, chairman of Nada which represents about 85% of new franchise dealerships in SA.

“In order for the economy to function efficiently, it relies on various forms of crucial mobility services, including the repair and maintenance of private and public transport, parts availability, and new vehicle supply,” says Dommisse.

Vehicle factories, which resumed operations this week under level 4, will require channels in which to distribute the products they assemble, he said. He warned that interrupted supply into the local market would cause lost sales, which inevitably would lead to lost jobs.

There are about 1,600 franchise dealers in SA employing 60,000 people directly, and nearly one million in the automotive value chain.

Nada says that from a safety perspective, dealerships are able to adapt quite quickly to ensure that their environments are as safe as possible. Dealerships generally have low footfall and spacious facilities, ensuring effective social distancing. Appointment scheduling and access control measures, which were largely in place before the crisis, can ensure that the number of people within facilities at any given time is monitored and controlled.

With the national lockdown having brought the economy to a near-standstill, Nada's call added to mounting pressure on the government to more quickly reopen the economy to prevent mass job losses and company closures.

One of the latest automotive victims of the lockdown was Harley-Davidson Johannesburg, which was last week forced to close its doors permanently after 24 years in business.

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