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Automotive aftermarket body appeals for financial support

09 April 2020 - 09:30 By Motor News Reporter
Around 80% of tyre, parts and accessory retailers, and repair and servicing outlets, are SMMEs who are under severe pressure during the Covid-19 lockdown. Picture: REUTERS
Around 80% of tyre, parts and accessory retailers, and repair and servicing outlets, are SMMEs who are under severe pressure during the Covid-19 lockdown. Picture: REUTERS

SA’s Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) has appealed to government for funding to help keep the automotive aftermarket industry’s wheels turning post-lockdown.

Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the RMI, is concerned about the sustainability of the sector and warns that the economy could grind to a halt without the ability to maintain or fix cars, taxis and buses.

“The economy in SA, and globally as well, is heavily dependent on an effective automotive repair and maintenance sector covering each and every town or city across the country’s wide geographical areas,” he says.

Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the RMI. Picture: SUPPLIED
Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the RMI. Picture: SUPPLIED

Olivier maintains there are thousands of cars locked down unfinished in workshops and repair shops across the country, which could affect the mobility of many South Africans out of lockdown. He also cautions that even when the lockdown is lifted, there is no guarantee when these businesses will be able to trade effectively due to uncertainty over the availability of automotive parts, many of which are imported.

“The affect is being felt across all our businesses from the micro and small enterprises through to the medium and larger businesses. There is an urgent need to protect this ‘essential’ sector and ensure it not only continues to function, but also maintains its significant apprenticeship and trainee programmes,” he says.

Olivier says about 80% of tyre, parts and accessory retailers, and repair and servicing outlets, are small to medium-sized businesses. 

“In the current economic slowdown, these are the businesses that have the greatest potential to generate employment post lockdown,” he says.

He quoted findings from the pre-lockdown Covid-19 National Small Business Survey released by the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), which highlighted deep economic challenges facing small businesses during these unpredictable times.

Mike Anderson, NSBC’s CEO, said that small businesses are facing insufficient cash flow due to a poor flow of customers and a significant drop in sales. This was before the lockdown, and the crisis deepened with the Covid-19 situation.

Olivier said that a significant number of retail automotive businesses are under severe pressure to pay their creditors and their employees.

He said he supported the need to safeguard the health of South Africans but appealed to government to recognise the critical role the automotive aftermarket industry is playing in keeping the economy ticking, and the need to prioritise an alternate funding mechanism/capital injection before it is too late and businesses closed their doors.

Olivier told Motor News he wasn’t formally applying for support from the Solidarity Response Fund set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa. He hadn’t yet engaged directly with government and his was more of an open call for the state to help sustain businesses and employees in this critical sector.

The RMI failed in its earlier bid to declare retailers of tyres, spare parts, as well as repair shops, as essential services during the lockdown. Repair shops are, however, on standby to look after emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire engines and police cars.

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