With the imminent publishing of the second draft to the Code of Conduct for Competition in the South African Automotive Industry, Vehicle Repair and Servicing and Parts Supply, the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) says the association supports the concept of customers having a choice of where to maintain their vehicle.
Whether this is just lip service to a Bill that will be passed into law or not, the fact NADA is making the statement signals a huge success for the Right to Repair campaign that has been tireless in its quest to break all, or some, of the stranglehold auto dealers have had on customers.
“Where the vehicle is within warranty and/or maintenance plan, the nearest franchised dealer remains the best place to look after the customer’s vehicle,” says Mark Dommisse, National Chairperson of NADA.
“These dealers understand the technology and design of the vehicle and are best-equipped to diagnose any faults. Franchised dealers employ qualified technicians, who undergo regular training with the manufacturer to ensure that they are fully abreast of the latest technology incorporated into the vehicles they work on. A well-trained specialist is best equipped to repair any faults.
“Today’s automobile is a technical piece of engineering with cutting-edge technology and design. The franchised dealer utilises correct tools, specialised diagnostic equipment and extensive, vehicle-specific training on a customer’s vehicle when it is in their service area, resulting in peace of mind that it is being well taken care of.
“For those customers choosing to purchase their vehicle with a maintenance plan, they are largely unaffected by the cost of these repairs, having already provided for their maintenance requirements within their purchase.
“Where the parts or vehicle are out of warranty and/or maintenance plan, the customer’s choice is even greater, where the customer is free to choose a franchised dealer on the above basis or use an independent specialist based on their affordability,” says Dommisse.
Les Mc Master, director of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA) says the whole point of the Right to Repair campaign is to allow you to select where your vehicle is serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices.
“There is a need for a fair and competitive regulatory environment that enables freedom of choice for consumers and gives aftermarket Small Medium Enterprises a chance to stay in business. South African legislature needs to follow the international Right to Repair trend which promotes South Africa’s existing consumer and competition laws.
“As things currently stand in South Africa, dealerships sell most vehicles with a built-in service plan. What this means is you buy the vehicle with a non-negotiable service plan included in the price. What you need to realise is this service plan could be hugely expensive and cost anywhere between R30 000 to R 60 000 or more. Added to that you are also charged a hire purchase interest.”
In a recent Vehicle Service Survey concluded by the Automobile Association (AA), 53% of car owners surveyed said they service their vehicles at the original dealer franchises, while 37% take their vehicles to private mechanics. The rest either service their vehicles themselves or do not service their vehicles at all.
Speaking on behalf of NADA, Dommisse notes franchised dealers represent about 25% of the market and that independent workshops service the vast majority of South Africa’s car parc.
The association recognises the need to strive for greater transparency and value-add in the way service and maintenance plans are built into the price of new vehicles, but much of this onus rests with the Franchisor who controls the price structure of a vehicle. Dommisse stresses these plans remain a peace-of-mind benefit to new and pre-owned customers as a guarantee that today’s price will be applied to all future service.
“In a debt-stressed country, as well as an industry reliant on an unstable currency, securing pricing today and ensuring budget certainty, is absolutely fundamental,” he says.
NADA supports and has contributed to a range of policies and programmes such as the Automotive Industry Code of Conduct for South Africa in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), client Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and now a Code for expanded competition. Although cautious, NADA supports the Competition Commission in its drive for a more regulated and open aftermarket, provided safety and sustainability remain at the heart of all matters.
“We have supported this practice for a long time, looking out for the interests of consumers within stringent franchised dealer agreements,” says Dommisse.
“However, we urge consumers outside of warranty to choose their repairers carefully, based on the chosen facility’s credibility and the customer’s ability to have recourse on any repairs or parts supplied. This practice not only protects the value of the customer’s vehicle but ensures the safety of those driving them.
“Consumer beware.” That, in a nutshell, is the advice from Johan van Vreden, the ombud for the motor industry of South Africa (MIOSA).
“All the responsible players in the industry have registered with the MIOSA, in the interest of customer satisfaction and protection against customer exploitation. “Will you take your sick child to an unqualified medical practitioner? Therefore, if your vehicle needs a repair, ensure the service provider is qualified and registered with the MIOSA.
“By dealing with a service provider not registered with the MIOSA you are dealing with individuals who are operating their trade with little regard for the consumer. It also becomes extremely difficult for the MIOSA to assist consumers where non-compliant service providers are involved.”
“We want to see change. We want equality, transparency and sustainability in our industry. R2RSA plans to make these things a reality and we call on you, the consumer, to support the cause and ask questions before making that car purchase,” says Mc Master.
“As NADA, we fully support fair practices in the motor industry when they create a healthy balance between benefiting customers and franchised dealers alike. This will allow South Africans access to a sustainable and credible industry with the ability to keep safe and reliable vehicles on our roads,” says Dommisse.
So, you’ve made the decision – you want to buy a car and you’ve decided which one. A big question you should be asking is how you want to service the car?