On Monday last week, motor dealers began to open their customers’ doors, still unaware of their terms and conditions.

On Thursday, on the fourth stage of the risk-adjusted Covid-19 strategy, the government added dealers to the list of business sectors which were permitted to trade from May 1. The new regulations only apply, however, to ‘car sales.’ Dealer groups hope this involves bakkies and commercial vehicles but waited for government clarification by Sunday afternoon.

The same applies to the rule that “under particular directions” sales can take place.

In SA, there are roughly 1,600 franchises with a workforce of around 60,000. Mark Dommisse, Chairman of the National Car Dealers Association warned of dealers’ starting and job losses if the industry is not allowed to go back to work this week.

“We don’t know what those directions are,” a leading dealer says. We are hoping that on Monday, we can find out what we can and cannot do to adjust our plans accordingly.

Social distancing and other Covid-19 wellbeing laws are definitely part of the directions. Many distributors spent the weekend in preparation for their proposals. At least one engine manufacturer is suspected to want to perform their own on-site inspections at franchisees.

Automotive licensing offices are open Monday, so traders say new car purchasers can complete formalities for registration and ownership. Test centers may not, however, be available, so consumer vehicle buyers can have to wait before their vehicles are certified as roadworthy.

Distributors can carry out emergency vehicle repairs. Routine operations in contracts and service agreements are not included.

Originally, dealers stood at the back of the Covid-19 line until heavy lobbying of the engine industry took them to the front. Car makers and parts suppliers who also return to work Monday claimed that if they didn’t have anything to sell, there was no point in creating vehicles for the local market.

By Noni Nchwe