With many South Africans searching for ways to save money, unaccredited workshops are flourishing – posing even more of a threat to the industry than home-based workshops.
All MIWA members are expected to be fully compliant: VAT registered, registered with the Motor Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO), and the Motor Industry Ombudsman (MIOSA). They are also expected to pay the municipal rates required to operate a light industrial business and must comply with all necessary health and safety regulations.
Workshops that don’t meet these standards are able to save on the associated fees and pass these savings on to consumers who often don’t know that their mechanics are cutting corners.
The problem, though, is that without any relationship to the necessary bodies, there is no onus on the workshop to uphold industry standards, and no one to call them to account. The consumer, therefore, has no recourse in the event of poor service.
This is bad news for the industry, which is affected by the poor reputation of these operators.
It is therefore critical to educate consumers about the importance of compliance and to raise the alert that there is a growing culture of non-compliance in the industry. This will, hopefully, encourage consumers to seek out compliant workshops. We are working hard on the consumer front to educate consumers on the benefits of using a compliant and accredited workshop.
People often have a mixed reaction when they speak to a woman in the aftermarket industry – frequently, they’re surprised that a woman would have any interest in, let alone knowledge of, cars. We applaud our female members for breaking the stereotype. Read on to find out their view on the industry.
Sebola Mahura handles admin and marketing at KGK Motors and loves every minute of it. Her favourite part of the job is interacting with the clients although, she admits, many question her knowledge because she is female. Not that this deters her – to the contrary, she works hard to increase and demonstrate her understanding. It would be great to see more women doing the same, she maintains, especially since the industry offers opportunities in several different areas, from panelbeating to technicians.
Chantel Steyn admits that the automobile industry isn’t about glitz and glamour – but that’s what she likes about it because she’s thrilled to be able to set a positive role model for strong, determined women. In fact, she’d like to set an example for everyone in the industry, demonstrating the importance of commitment to customer service and quality workmanship. Her own dedication shows in the success of her Car Service City branch, which was awarded Best New Branch and Best Overall Branch in the franchise last year.
The success of Kessel Motors, which has six branches, proves the theory of co-owner Sandra Corbett: that the business acumen shared between her and her husband could be put to good use in any industry. Sandra admits that building the business hasn’t always been easy, especially when it comes to customers who doubt her efficacy around mechanical problems. This has spurred her to work harder, she says, because she is determined to prove that she can do the job just as well as anyone. While Sandra believes there is certainly room for more women in the industry, education and mentoring have a critical role to play in highlighting the opportunities available to them.
Angie Ledwaba shares this view, which is why she is eager to see more educational workshops informing women of what the industry has to offer them. Her own entry into the field came after she managed her brother’s workshop. The experience encouraged her to purchase her own, and she is now the owner of RA Motors in Polokwane. Angie believes that engineering, and mechanical engineering in particular, is an excellent avenue for opening the industry to more women, and would like to see more women showing an interest in these fields.
For Theresa Spenser-Higgs, a career in the industry was almost a foregone conclusion: her father and grandfather both worked in the field, as did her husband. She came on board to help him with office work when he opened D&T Servicing and is now the MIWA Border Regional Chairperson. She relishes the responsibilities and opportunities that come with this position; because she has an insider’s view of the challenges experienced by workshops, she is well placed to provide guidance and is excited to help the industry evolve.
After a challenging year, workshops in the Border region are starting to collaborate – with excellent results.
Regional chairperson Theresa Spenser-Higgs notes that there have been a number of exciting developments throughout the year. She points to the Association’s partnership with Port Rex High, which has been supported with significant excitement and enthusiasm from school staff and learners alike. “This bodes well for fostering a new generation of talent,” she notes.
The East London Moto Mech Show, incorporating the Junior Tech Competition, shows what can be achieved through such partnerships. Hosted in conjunction with the Port Rex Technical College, this year’s event has been moved to early 2021 and promises to provide an excellent opportunity to showcase MIWA workshops while cultivating relationships with future apprentices.
Theresa is pleased to see that cooperation is increasing not only between the Regional Committee and key stakeholders but also between member workshops. “It’s heartening to see workshop owners viewing each other as fellow competitors, rather than ‘the competition’ – and if this dynamic can be encouraged, it will work to everyone’s benefit, strengthening the MIWA brand in the region. This will lead to increased business, as customers learn what MIWA workshops stand for,” she says.
Training sessions, such as the product training hosted by the regional committee, have been a help in this area, contributing to a higher standard of work amongst members.
That said, there are some stumbling blocks to be overcome; primarily in the form of workshops that refuse to comply with Covid-19 regulations. “Unfortunately, these tarnish the image of compliant workshops and damage the reputation of the industry as a whole.”
Even so, Theresa is optimistic about the future. “Next year will see consumers taking note of MIWA,” she predicts, “with events such as Moto Mech helping to raise the Association’s profile.” She’s also excited by the new offerings presented by the Association, such as the launch of online Electude training for apprentices, the new corporate image manual, and the introduction of new audits and accreditations. “MIWA members will benefit from relationships with warranty companies which protect their interests,” Theresa adds, “with all of these actions helping to build a strong foundation for future success.”
Jack Finn, the chairperson of the Eastern Cape regional committee, is proud that the region has withstood the pandemic and lockdown, recording only a limited number of closures. “It’s a sure sign of the region’s resilience and dedication,” he says.
He notes that now that everyone is back to work, there are issues that have to be addressed. “For instance, the pandemic has affected the availability of flights, which has had a knock-on effect on how frequently parts may be obtained. Crime has also escalated as a result of the pandemic, with many workshops reporting car theft and break-ins.”
The highlight of the year, for Jack, was the Moto Mech Show, which provided excellent exposure and was highly successful. Returning to work is also considered a highlight for many, especially now that business has gained momentum. Jack is particularly pleased to see that more customers are booking services, indicating that they are taking their car’s health more seriously. “This trend shows that the committee’s effort to educate consumers is paying off.”
Going forward, Jack says that there will be fewer new car sales, which means that people will keep their cars for longer and take better care to ensure their longevity. “That’s great news for aftermarket workshops, which should respond by making sure they are abreast of technology and provide flawless service,” he concludes.
Border and Eastern Cape teams busy during lockdown
The teams in Border and Eastern Cape have been busy during lockdown making kennels for Mandala Day, Donating medals to local schools, in house workshop training as well as some event sponsorships, participation in social outreach programmes and some fun sports and hobby karting activities prior to the lockdown.
Owned by Sisonke Dinga (32) and Steven Dunn (37), the SD Group is one of MIWA’s newest members – and it’s already reaping the rewards of accreditation.
The pair explain that they have been able to increase the scope of their work thanks to their membership, which has enabled them to access training while also improving their brand image and contributing to consumer confidence.
This is crucial, says Sisonke, because access to training is a bugbear for independent aftermarket workshops. This is just one challenge facing such workshops; obtaining parts is another.
That said, operating without the confines of a dealership has its advantages, too, allowing them to push boundaries. In fact, one of the reasons Sisonke and Steven decided to leave the dealership environment was their belief that they could offer customers greater value for money if they repaired parts instead of replacing them.
Dunn says the business has in fact been so successful because of the gap it serves in the market. “We realised that customers often could not afford costly replacement parts and this was the perfect way we could assist these customers with an alternative. We are able to repair the component with the same quality workmanship they could get at a dealer, but just at a more affordable rate. For us, it is all about value for money and helping our customers keep the brand on the road and not at home,” he explains.
The pair learned as much as they could working for premium brands BMW and Mercedes Benz, and now offer the same level of expertise and know-how – with an added serving of passion – from the SD Group’s branches in Midrand (which is managed by Sisonke) and Amanzimtoti (run by Steven).
Both are thrilled by what they have achieved since they established the group with their own funds back in 2017, and are excited about what the future holds. With the trade increasingly requiring knowledge of fields like mechanical, electrical, and IT, it is a dynamic and challenging profession for young people, they maintain.
Asked if they would change their independence if given a chance, the answer is a resounding no. “In the aftermarket we are able to do what we couldn’t do when we worked at a dealership. There are no boundaries. This is not a job for us. We love what we do. It’s more like a hobby that we are both very good at. We can stay at the workshop till midnight and it no burden to either of us,” Dinga enthuses.
Their best advice for young people looking for a career in the automotive sector is to first and foremost have a passion and love for cars – the brand should be a bonus. “You must have a keen interest in maths and science. This helps a lot because what we do is about problem-solving. Maths and science come into play when you talking electronics. You also need to want this as a career. It’s not a job and you should not be driven by money. Money is a by-product of acquiring knowledge. You get a good reputation and in turn people will look for you because of that knowledge – then you’ll get money,” they conclude.
We made it! Level 2 is here, and with it, life returns to normal – almost.
Of course, there are still challenges to be faced. The South African wallet is very stretched at present, and while this brings with it a greater need for aftermarket workshops able to service older cars which are not being replaced, it also means that consumers don’t mind supporting a non-compliant workshop if it helps them save a few bucks.
In this month’s newsletter, we explore the dangers of non-compliance and what it means for the industry, while also looking at some of the rising superstars who will help us move forward. With August being Women’s Month, we have focused on some of our amazing women that are setting our industry alight. We also take a look at how agility is the one quality we need to focus on if we are to survive the aftermath of the storm from which we have just emerged. Finally, we hope you enjoy the start of our new Region in the Spotlight feature. We are kicking off with Border and the Eastern Cape this month and seeing what has been achieved.
I hope you enjoy our August newsletter and always remember our MIWA Executive Team are there to support you every step of the way – Onward and upward.