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Digitalisation platform fast-tracked due to COVID-19 lockdown

At the beginning of the year, we announced our intention to launch a digital platform, in collaboration with TEPA and ARA. Back then, we couldn’t have known that almost everyone in South Africa would be working online by April.

Now that Zoom has become a household buzzword and online shopping is the norm, even skeptics will agree that the Internet is a platform without rival when it comes to convenience. And that’s why we’re unlikely to turn back.

COVID-19 has forced us to communicate with our members differently and this will definitely continue in the future. We’ve experienced communicating and learning through webinars and podcasts and the power of communicating through our telegram information channel. This has worked so well. It is quick and efficient and gets to the right person immediately. We look forward to keeping our digital lines of communication open. It is so critical we stay connected. 

It also means the way you communicate with your customers needs to change. This may seem daunting at first, especially if you have little experience in the digital realm – which does, admittedly, require certain skills. Fortunately, we’ve been able to partner with Connected Life to offer all MIWA members a complete social media marketing package, including a website and daily marketing on all social media updates. 

Why is this such a great medium? Simply put, social media directs your ideal customer’s attention to your brand. However, the real magic lies in the fact that they are empowered and in control of all decisions throughout the conversion process, which can work powerfully in your favour.

However, the attainment of this goal hinges on providing quality content across a variety of platforms, from your website to newsletters, emailers, and blogs. Again, Connected Life is able to assist in compiling targeted, gripping content that will hold your consumers’ attention.

MIWA members can access the power of online for just R99 per month for the first six months.

This is the ideal time to reach out to customers. Regular communications will remind them that you are available to answer all their needs – but the flipside is that if you fail to start that dialogue, they may move on.

Don’t feel intimidated by this new world – remember that you are not alone. We are here to support and help you in any way we can.

Free website to MIWA members

To get your site click here

To view a sample of how the site looks click here

Opening your workshop? Here’s what you need to know.

Are you ready to open your workshop? Customer needs have changed significantly during the five weeks of lockdown, and trust has become more important than ever as people seek to ensure they deal with entities that can keep them safe while providing great service.

First things first: before you open your workshop, it is critical that you have a risk strategy in place and you ensure your workshop is ready for business.  We are preparing a whole set of Sanitisation Protocol posters for your workshops which will be sent to you by the end of the week. You can print these out and laminate the posters. They are a great reminder for everyone. There are a variety of different options but here is a short summary of each: 

Staff protocols

All staff are required to undergo a temperature register before entering the premises, and may not enter if a temperature of more than 37.6 degrees Celsius is recorded. The key or touchpads of time systems must be disinfected after every physical interaction. From entry, staff must proceed to a sanitisation station and sanitise their hands, and bags must be handed over to a designated person for sanitisation and storage. Employees will then go to their workstation, remaining at least 1,5m away from colleagues. The workstation, including desk, telephone, and other devices must be sanitised before starting work and should be sanitised again before leaving. If employees have to leave their workstations, they must take care not to touch any handles or stair railings. This process must be repeated every time people exit and reenter the building.

Employees are reminded to follow hygiene rules, such as coughing or sneezing into a flexed elbow and throwing away used tissues.

Please note that staff may not share tools, equipment, or workstations; nor should they share food or masks.

Masks must be worn at all times, especially while using public transport, and must be washed and dried daily. Damaged masks must be replaced immediately. Staff must make a concerted effort not to touch anything on their daily commute and must try to stay away from other passengers who are coughing and sneezing.

An example of two of the Sanitation Protocol posters being developed for the business.

Supplier protocols

Guidelines are in place for managing deliveries from suppliers, too. All deliveries must be made in a strictly designated delivery area, which is separate from the general production and administrative area. All suppliers are to be screened before entering the building. All parcels and deliveries must be sanitised, and any pen used during the handover must be disinfected, too. Staff must wash their hands immediately after taking delivery. 

Vehicle protocols

Workshop owners are to follow strict protocols for handling vehicles, too. Please note that all customer vehicles must be sanitised before entering the workplace production area, including the seats, dashboards, exterior door handles and boot lid handles, and should be sanitised once more before being transferred to the next department, focusing on the areas that have been worked on and the driver position. The exterior door handles, seat, steering wheel, and driver side dashboard must be disinfected again. Only one technician should work on the vehicle from the time it enters the production area. The car must be completely sanitised before it is collected by the customer, and should be locked with keys secured. 

Customer protocols

Customers must maintain social distancing, keeping a distance of 1.5m between them.

Customers coming to collect their cars must pass through an entrance sanitiser, and the keys must be sanitised before handover. Only the customer may touch the vehicle. If the car is being delivered to the customer’s home or office, the driver must carry a sanitising kit and must sanitise the driver’s position in the presence of the client. The driver’s seat must also be sanitised if the car is driven for any reason.

Please note that if anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 enters the workplace, the business will be forced to close and all staff will be quarantined.  We know this first month is especially difficult. We trust you are considering a phased-in approach to restarting your business. It’s advisable to invite around 30% of staff back to work at the outset; this not only speaks to social distancing requirements but also eases the pressure of paying a full complement of salaries until the business has gained momentum.

Keep your credit score healthy

Finance is, obviously, a key concern for all of us at this time. Since you’re already thinking about new budgets and financial challenges, you may as well as take a moment to contemplate your credit score, too.

In fact, according to African Bank, you should check your score regularly as part of good financial hygiene. It’s more important than ever to keep track of how lenders perceive your credit risk, as this affects their willingness to lend you money – and this may be critical moving forward, when the real impact of the economic shutdown becomes apparent, especially if you find yourself in need of some financial assistance.

To maintain a favourable credit score and ensure you qualify for loans going forward, remember the following:

  • Any default on payments like rental, cellphone contracts, bond, and vehicle repayments will be noted on your credit record. Make sure you keep these up to date or, if this simply is not possible, alert your lenders to your predicament and find out if it’s possible to make alternative arrangements.
  • Don’t use up all the credit available to you. Leaving a margin of 30% shows that you are able to manage your finances efficiently, which will make lenders more likely to trust you with a loan.
  • Prioritise your spending. Increased financial pressure means that some expenses will have to go, so review your budget to find out which ones – like education – cannot be cut down, and which can.

Checking your credit score is a simple – and most importantly, cost-free – exercise: simply request a report from one of South Africa’s credit score reporting agencies. You’re entitled to one free report every year, although banks like African Bank even allow you unlimited access to a detailed credit report on a monthly basis; a service that is not limited to African Bank customers.

The one who got away

Everyone has one: the car that should have been theirs – and would have been, were it not for some regrettable decisions. We asked our directors which cars they wish were parked in the garage.

Teresa Spenser Higgs – MIWA Chairperson Border region

Being from the feminine side of the fence, I must admit I am more likely to long for a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes than a car! Having said that, I have always joked that I would like to own the new look VW beetle as it makes a statement – that statement being that I have so much money I don’t mind spending it unwisely. However, being married to a technician, I accepted years ago that my husband will be the one making the decisions when it comes to choosing vehicles.

Les McMaster – MIWA National Vice Chairman

Les with his blue Datsun 160U SSS.

The first car I purchased as an 18-year-old apprentice was my dream car; the one I so wanted to own and which I revered as the ultimate cool machine totally suited to the hip fraternity of that era. I had just completed my military service and had saved the ‘danger pay’ I received for serving on the then South West African border, as a member of the South African Defence Force.

I can clearly recall the moment I first set sight on this car, as I was passing on my way from work. It stood there in a used car lot, just beckoning me to stop and feast my eyes: the most beautiful blue 1969 Datsun 1600 SSS in the entire world. I remember my heart pounding in my chest with excitement. I hastily made arrangements to test drive this vehicle and, having satisfied myself that everything was in order, I purchased it.

My life was forever changed. This Datsun was my pride and joy; not only because it was my very first car, but because it drew loads of attention wherever I went (plus, how could I forget the countless trips to the drive-in with dates who were not too keen on seeing the movie). I quickly bought and fitted California deep-dish mags and revamped the exhaust system to give a deep-throated roar, which just sent chills of joy up my spine with every acceleration. 

My regret, thinking back, was that I didn’t keep that Datsun. I sold it to purchase a brand-new Datsun 160U SSS, which was a phenomenal vehicle in its own right – although it never really had the magic of its predecessor.

When I still couldn’t get that car out of my head many years later, I decided to purchase a Datsun 1600 SSS and clone my first car. It took a long time and a lot of searching, but I finally found one in fair condition. I completely stripped it down to bare metal and rebuilt it as a clone of my first car. I just couldn’t wait to start it up after reconditioning all the mechanical parts. 

Finally, the day arrived … I had just finished the final item of the assembly. I put the key into the ignition and started it. No words can express the feeling of utter enjoyment that exploded within my being. In a déjà vu moment I was 18 again; a feeling that can bring a 61-year-old man to tears. I proudly drove the Datsun home with the exact same feeling that I had with that first drive home all those years ago.

I still have my Datsun and, after five years I still drive it around, even participating in a classic car rally to Maputo in 2019. I still get the appreciative recognition from other road users when I drive around. I would even put a bet on it that I could still get a date to the drive-in if they still existed, that would really put the cherry on the top (although we would probably want to watch the movie this time!)

Nowellyn’s image of his living dream to restore his favourite car..

Nowellyn van Vuuren – Vice-Chairman Border region

Cars aren’t everyone’s passion – either you love them or you don’t. My favourite car of all time was a Ford Anglia station wagon. I was lucky enough to be the second person who owned this car. 

I was just a little boy when I realized that my mother’s late uncle – a foreman at the Ford Motor Company – had this car in the garage. He’d bought it from the factory line. 

I still remember my excitement the day I bought that car. I paid R600, which was a lot of money for a 17-year-old. We collected it from the house, where it was covered under five years of dust. I was so pleased to get it outside – we all deserve some sunlight.

After many long nights and weekends, I had transformed the car from its faded green state to its former glory. 

I made so many happy memories with that car. My biggest regret is selling it – it would have been such a fun little car to own, and I would have loved my family to have the same kind of experiences. I’m still on the lookout for a car in a similar condition to buy.

Power of giving and innovation

It is easy to become disheartened with all the uncertainty and negativity in the news these days but, every day, we are reminded that there are some amazing people out there who are challenging the odds or opening their hearts in the spirit of giving. We’re so proud to hear these stories. Here are just two we thought you may like. Here’s a salute to their creativity and big-heartedness!

Delmari Kent of Stirling Auto Centre in East London has joined forces with a doctor and local councilor to create the Nahoon COVID-19 Support Group, which keeps the 470 families in the Nahoon-Bonniedoon-Stirling area up to date and informed of important developments during the lockdown. Delmari represents the local community policing forum, of which she is a member. “I’ve met amazing people from this group, but what really makes me happy is being able to help others,” she says.

Jason du Plessis is filling his time creating beautiful portraits of cars; a hobby he started with a drawing of his own car, an NKI Rabbit Golf. After posting a picture on Facebook, his inbox was flooded with queries from people asking him to do the same for them. Jason says he loves the process because it’s all about capturing the fine detail in the cars and how the design all comes together. His portraits cost R150 and can be ordered over WhatsApp: 065 939 9845.

Tattoo artist Jason Du Plessis is filling his time creating beautiful portraits of cars.

MIWA in the media April 2020

Here are a few articles that were published:

Don’t forget your car. Lockdown: Regular maintenance is critical to extend lifespan.

Storing your car safely during lockdown (Springs Advertiser)

Storing your car safely during lockdown (Auto Forum)

Storing your car safely during lockdown (Vaal Weekblad)

Storing you car safely during lockdown (Boksburg Advertiser)

How to navigate your way through a mechanic’s workshop when you know nothing about cars

Give your car a home valet before it comes out of quarantine

Lost means cost

Director’s Desk April 2020

This week our workshops started to open. There is still a lot of uncertainty out there and we know that trading volumes are not going to be very high until we reach at least Level 3 and 2. Over the last seven weeks, we have been sharing as much information with you as possible to enable you to survive this crisis. I must remind members to please read these COVID-19 Monitor alerts as they are very comprehensive and answer most of your questions.

We hope that you are managing your stress and anxiety levels during this time. We trust that we are closer than ever to a return to normal life – albeit a ‘new normal’.  Please keep in touch with us during the first couple of weeks and let us know any problems you are experiencing. We are here to support and help you. You will have read about the Sanitisation posters we are preparing for you as well. These will be important in the workshops. 

This month’s newsletter contains some ideas to help you prepare for reopening your workshop, tips to handle your finances, and a lighthearted look at cars we’ve loved.

Here’s to staying strong and healthy!

Pieter Niemand, MIWA National Director