Motus, South Africa’s largest automotive group, has been in full support of the South African government’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections since the national lockdown was first announced and subsequently implemented at midnight on 26 March 2020.
Limited service under Level 5 restrictions
Under the national lockdown, or Level 5 of the government’s Risk Adjusted Strategy, vehicle servicing and maintenance was limited to assisting essential services workers, resulting in workshop throughput reducing to 1,16% of normal volumes during this time.
“As a group, we were anxious to get back to work,” says Osman Arbee, CEO of Motus Corporation. “Not only to protect the livelihoods of thousands of employees, but to ensure that all of our fellow South Africans’ vehicles are well maintained and roadworthy when they need to return to work.”
While the lockdown undoubtedly resulted in the entire nation driving significantly less, if at all, there were still a large number of vehicles that required servicing both on mileage and on time, based on the OEM’s prescriptions. Unsurprisingly, the restriction on vehicle servicing and maintenance during lockdown has now created a backlog of vehicles that need to undergo critical safety checks and servicing to ensure optimal performance. In fact, after seven weeks of lockdown, the backlog is at approximately 19% of the car parc.
Alert Level 4: Clearing the service and maintenance backlog
The easing of restrictions on the automotive trade under Alert Level 4 will bring welcome relief to the embattled motor industry. With an estimated four out of 10 workers returning to work as of 1 May 2020, albeit in a phased manner under Alert Level 4, workshop throughput in dealerships have already started to increase, and will continue to do as the backlog of services are cleared and further easing of the lockdown is implemented.
While repairs and maintenance for essential services was allowed under Level 5, Alert Level 4 also includes repairs to restore a car’s safety and roadworthiness to good running condition, whether the car is used by an essential services worker or not. Motus is also thankful that the directives provide for the routine servicing and maintenance of vehicles that are due or overdue in terms of the manufacturer’s service intervals.
“It remains critical for routine vehicle servicing to resume in order to prevent costly breakdowns further down the line,” adds Arbee. “It’s under these conditions that the benefits of a prepaid service and maintenance plan comes to bear, as customers now benefit from vehicles fit for use without having a large cash outlay. We have already noted an increased percentage of transactions covered by these plans, which is indicative of the financial strain many of our customers are experiencing.”
To that extent, Motus has worked around the clock to ensure that all facilities are fully compliant with all the directions regarding the sale of cars and emergency automobile repairs during Alert Level Four of the Covid-19 National State of Disaster (issued in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, as published in the Government Gazette number 43308 on 12 May 2020).
Prioritising the health of employees and customers alike
When preparing our workshops for reopening, we focused on the health of employees and customers. “Our primary priority is always employee health,” explains Arbee. “If our employees are healthy, then it’s easy for us to collectively implement the other priorities we have identified. This includes our collective mandate that hygiene must be maintained in the workshops at all times. By ensuring our workshops are sanitised properly and fully compliant with regulations, we are confident that we are receiving our customers in a safe space.”
The safety of our customers is about more than just ensuring a workshop is clean though. It is entrenched in the revised protocols and procedures used in our dealerships, which include an increased focus on electronic communication for documentation and record keeping, as well as electronic ordering and payment processes. Where physical interaction is unavoidable, social distancing is strictly applied, with processes optimised in such a manner that waiting time is minimised.
However, customer safety is also directly attributable to customers doing their part. “Wear a mask when you arrive, or we will provide you with a disposable mask. We will ask customers to sanitize their hands when entering, and we will be screening and recording customers’ temperatures. No person, staff or customer, is allowed entry if a temperature of more than 37.5°C is recorded. Instead, we will ask those customers to seek medical advice,” explains Arbee.
Further measures taken towards customer safety is the implementation of contactless drop-offs and pick-ups for customers, especially in the servicing space, where dealerships collect and return vehicles from a customer’s home or place of work, instead of the customer having to come to a workshop.
In his letter to the nation this week, President Ramaphosa said that life will slowly return as the lockdown is gradually eased, but that it will not be life as we knew it before. He added that now, more than ever, it is the conduct of each individual that determines the fate of all.
“As Motus, we are embracing this new reality, and look forward to continuing this journey with our customers,” adds Arbee.