Keeping in touch with customers

COVID-19 has changed the way MIWA members communicate with their customers. This may have seemed daunting at first, particularly for those members who have little experience in the digital realm. Fortunately, MIWA have been able to partner with Connected Life to offer all MIWA members a complete social media marketing package, including a website and daily marketing on all social media updates.
Digital marketing is such a great medium because it directs your customer’s attention to your brand.
“However, the real magic lies in the fact that they are empowered and in control of all decisions throughout the conversion process, which can work powerfully in your favour,” says Pieter Niemand, National Director of MIWA.
Niemand cautions that the attainment of this goal hinges on providing quality content across a variety of platforms, from your website to newsletters, emailers and blogs. “Again, Connected Life is able to assist in compiling targeted, gripping content that will hold your consumers’ attention,” he says.
This is the ideal time to reach out to customers. Regular communications will remind them that you are available to answer all their needs – but the flipside is that if you fail to start that dialogue, they may move on.
MIWA members can access the power of online for just R99 per month for the first six months. To access your free website all MIWA members need to do is visit and you can view a sample of how the site looks at
“Don’t feel intimidated by this new world – it is a new way of connecting and doing business and you will reap the benefits,” concludes Niemand.

Innovative development in online learning

The world of work is being profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the introduction of lockdown, and the phased re-opening of the economy, the Coronavirus pandemic has presented unique challenges to all types and levels of learning. These challenges have also stimulated discussion amongst MIWA and RMI ranks on the need for innovative development in online learning.
MIWA, under the leadership of the National Executive Committee and directed by Pieter Niemand, National Director of MIWA, participated, and will continue to participate, in the RMI’s National Executive Training Committee’s current initiative to develop a framework for digital remodelling of lifelong learning and work. In this context, MIWA has the opportunity to draw from the learnings and experiences of paid officials, elected office bearers and other members as subject matter experts on learning and training. This can be done anywhere and at any time as this is what is central to lifelong learning.
Andrea Bogner, the MIWA NEC representative on the RMI’s NETC, actively participated in the first framework discussion on 30 April 2020. This included the examination and re-examination of a range of issues on how digital education and training solutions can be utilised to deliver skills programmes, learnerships, and apprenticeships, further meeting the requirements of assessments and moderations by Sectorial Education and Training Authorities and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations. The inputs received included innovative learning methodologies for learners including apprentices who acquire re-skilling and upskilling at the workplace.
Electude and MIWA have worked together to find a solution for blended learning approaches particularly for the motor mechanic and diesel mechanic trades. The mapping of the Electude modules for the motor mechanic trade against the Competency Based Modular Training (CBMT) delivery method has been tested and found to fill the gap in the use of only hardcopy training material. The flexibility of the Electude solution is such that regardless of delivery method, legacy or new occupational qualification, modules get mapped against the requirements in the relevant curriculum.
“MIWA has demonstrated, over many years, its resilience and willingness to embrace technology to promote skills development,” concludes Niemand.

Customers can service their cars again but business still very slow

As of Wednesday 13 May, motorists were finally allowed to service their cars under strict risk-adjusted trading measures, hygiene and social distancing restrictions. One week down the line Pieter Niemand, national director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), an association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, representing nearly 2,600 businesses and 31,200 employees in the independent aftermarket workshop environment, said business was still very slow but not unexpected.
“Feedback from members reflects these same sentiments with many saying they did expect a bit more movement as what is currently experienced,” he says. Niemand says another factor contributing to the slow start is the 30% quota of staff allowed to work as this places pressure on workshops to complete work, given the average number of staff employed by the smaller workshops. “Restrictions on people movement also play a part and we believe a general fear of being in any public space contributes greatly to the slower start up.
“When you consider that the South African car parc is an aging one, with 80% of cars out of warranty and 60% being six years or older, servicing of these older vehicles does however become critical,” says Niemand.
He says they are definitely anticipating an increase in the number of consumers looking for competitive servicing options at independent workshops. “Even before the coronavirus pandemic we started to see an increase as a result of the depressed economic conditions. He says many vehicle owners have opted for extended warranties and have to comply with the compulsory service intervals outlined in their policy guidelines at an accredited MIWA workshop. Research from TransUnion indicates that consumers are definitely opting for older vehicles as pressure on disposable income increases.
For now Niemand says, the repair of comfort features or sale and installation of non-essential accessories is still not permitted but again, once the market opens up again he predicts a definite increase, particularly in parts and accessories.
Commenting on the safety aspect of the workshops, Niemand says MIWA is satisfied that all its accredited businesses are compliant with required health and safety protocols. Motor vehicle repair is a very low-risk-of-transmission environment. Workshop premises are large and airy. A typical work bay for a vehicle repair is 4 x 7 meters, minimum is 3 x 6 meters. In most workshops one work bay is limited to one technician, so a distance between employees of two meters can easily be implemented with compulsory face masks and gloves. Motor technicians also constantly work with oily and greasy hands and are used to not touching their faces before washing hands.
The contact between customers is minimal compared to retail industries. Typically, five to 20 customers drop-of their vehicles in a period of about two hours. Customers do not need to have direct contact with staff at all. Documents can be prepared at a drop-of station and all communication done electronically.
“Many of our workshops introduced strict hygiene measures before the lockdown. The vehicles are disinfected before entering the workshop and again before being returned to the customer. The same applies to keys so we are confident we can minimise any risk,” he concludes.

Keeping your big kid safe in the car

Most of us are familiar with car safety rules for small kids: always use a backwards facing car seat until your child is two years old, for instance. But what about older kids? After all, just because they have more candles on their cake doesn’t mean they should be overlooked.
Many parents don’t realise that seat belts are intended for adult use only, informs Pieter Niemand, national director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of RMI. This is why children should use booster seats until they are between the ages of eight and 12, or measure 1,44 meters and weigh 36kg. It is only at this stage that their bones have ossified (knitted together), prior to which point being in an accident can cause even more severe damage.
How to tell if you’re ready to dispense with that booster?
“A good rule of thumb is that your child’s legs should be long enough to bend at the seat’s edge, with knees and feet hanging, when she sits against the back of the seat,” Niemand says.
Look out, too, for a proper fit: the seat belt should fit as it does when you wear it, without cutting across the neck and face, or across the thighs. In other words, the shoulder component must strap snugly across shoulder and chest, while the lap belt is tight enough to avoid sagging across the belly.
It’s important to note that the shoulder belt must remain across the upper body at all times. Many children find this uncomfortable, and prefer to tuck it under their arms or behind their backs – but this compromises the protection offered.
By the same token, says Niemand, seat belts that comprise a lap belt only should not be considered safe. But don’t be tempted to rectify the situation by buying an ‘add-on’ seatbelt extender; Niemand warns that these are not regulated by safety standards, so there’s no guarantee they’re doing the job.
“A better idea is to have a proper seat belt retro-fitted. Find a reputable repair workshop, which is a MIWA member, to do the job,” he recommends. He adds that sharing seatbelts is not safe, either.
Although older children love ‘the importance’ of sitting in the front seat, this is an absolute no-no, according to Niemand; it’s back seat only. This ensures that they are further away from the site of impact in case of an accident, especially in view of the fact that most fatal car accidents have a frontal impact. More than this, sitting in the front inevitably places them in contact with an air bag – and, again, their bodies are not yet sufficiently developed to handle to force of an unfolding airbag.
Need further convincing? Because their little bodies are so small and lightweight, it’s very easy for a child to literally fly through the windscreen in case of an accident – and only 25% of children who experience this survive. If your child fits into this lucky statistic, chances are high that she will be permanently disabled.
Nor is your lap a suitable replacement for a seatbelt. Consider this: when travelling, your child’s weight is increased by the speed of travel – so your 15kg daughter weighs 900kg if you are travelling at 60km/h. You may be able to hold onto a 15kg child, but it’s impossible to hold tight to a 900kg weight.
Finally, Niemand issues a reminder that not only is it illegal for any child under to forego wearing a seatbelt, but you, as the driver, are legally responsible for any child under the age of 14 who is travelling without a seatbelt.

How to navigate your way through a mechanic’s workshop when you know nothing about cars

If you don’t know a fan belt from an alternator, a mechanic’s workshop can be an intimidating place. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to empower yourself with information – and the confidence will follow.
Because most consumers understand very little about the inner workings of their cars, they often feel at a disadvantage when discussing motor problems with mechanics. And that’s fine – after all, few of us would be able to take on the family doctor when it comes to matters of health.
That said, it doesn’t take much to acquire the knowledge that will make visits to the mechanic less daunting. The first tip, offered by Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud Association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), is to make sure that you describe your concerns around the car in great detail. That doesn’t necessarily mean researching car bodies until you are able to name every part, and even offer the mechanic advice (after all, you wouldn’t tell a surgeon how to do his job, and your mechanic is every bit as knowledgeable and an expert in his field); but it does mean being able to describe any noises, rattles and shudders, and let your mechanic know where they are. If necessary, take him with for a test drive so that he is able to experience these for himself. This is far more effective than telling him “to do what needs to be done”. Don’t make suggestions about what needs to be fixed – after all, you may send the mechanic in the completely wrong direction.
Pay attention to what your mechanic tells you. Motor repairs don’t come cheap, so it’s worth your while to take enough of an interest in the car to make sure you don’t repeat any bad driving habits that may put parts at risk in the future.
By the same token, if there’s something you want to know, don’t hesitate to ask questions. As experts in their field, mechanics are happy to share their knowledge, and nothing pleases a motor enthusiast more than someone who wants to learn more about their favourite topic. You also have the right to question anything the mechanic has recommended. Again, since car repairs are costly, if you don’t understand why a certain repair is necessary, finding out more will give you peace of mind.
A final point on this score: you’ll probably understand more if your mechanic physically shows you the parts he is talking about, rather than simply describing them, so ask if you can have a tour of what’s underneath the car’s bonnet while he’s chatting. Asking for information as you go along also protects you from receiving a shock when you get the bill.
Of course, the more you trust your mechanic, the more comfortable you’ll feel talking about a technically complex subject. It’s therefore worthwhile shopping around until you find a workshop that you can envisage returning to year after year. Ranft says that it’s also important to make sure that workshop is a MIWA member.
“This is your reassurance that the workshop and its mechanics meet our stringent criteria, and that they can be trusted not only to be technically proficient, but also to provide excellent service,” he concludes.

Maintenance is crucial as motorists keep their cars for more than 10 years

Economic reasons and newer models becoming more reliable are amongst the reasons why South African motorists are keeping their cars for longer. This is according to research recently published by the Automobile Association. “There’s no doubt that vehicle owners are keeping their cars for longer which means that maintenance of vehicles is more crucial than ever,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).
The research revealed that 40% of respondents say they now keep their cars for between five and 10 years, with just under 35% saying they are keeping their vehicles for longer than 10 years. “These results point to the increased need for better maintenance of vehicles, and for proper insurance,” reports the AA.
“Regular maintenance is key to extending the life of your car, and will help you pick up smaller repairs early enough to prevent more serious faults occurring further down the line,” says Ranft.
He advises motorists to keep a close eye on the car’s manual and schedule maintenance accordingly. “Even better, set a recurring reminder on your phone to alert you to get your vehicle checked annually. Keeping up with your car’s recommended maintenance schedule can help avoid costly problems with your cooling system, drivetrain, suspension and other components.”
Motorists should also ensure their car is serviced by a reputable workshop that only uses quality oil, fluids and parts. “While it might sound like an attractive option to service your car as cheaply as possible, the financial implications in the long run will outweigh the apparent short-term benefit. It’s never wise to scrimp on your car’s maintenance costs.”
In addition to regular maintenance there are a number of other things motorists can do to extend a car’s life. Motorists should regularly check the level of fluids in their vehicles, such as the antifreeze, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. “It’s also important to change the oil regularly as this will improve your mileage and protect your engine. To find the recommended mileage between oil changes check your vehicle’s service manual, and if still unsure consult with an accredited MIWA workshop. It’s important to change the oil filter as well – there is no sense in putting clean oil through a dirty filter,” says Ranft.
He also advises motorists to monitor the thickness of their vehicle’s brake pads to prevent the pads from wearing down to metal. This will cause damage to the brake disks and possibly the calipers as well. It’s worth noting that disks and calipers are far more expensive to replace than pads.
Another tip to make the brakes last longer, is to use the hand brake where possible, he says. “Even if you are driving a car with an automatic transmission, use your hand brake regularly, especially if you’re parked on an incline. It helps keep the brakes adjusted in the rear of the car and makes them last longer.”
But most of all, don’t ignore small problems. Pay close attention to a vehicle’s noises and also to its warning lights and even cosmetic things, like a piece of rubber trim that’s loose, he says. “Ignoring a problem only allows it to get worse, and parts for aging vehicles are often difficult to locate.
“If buying a new car isn’t a priority then ensuring your current vehicle is properly maintained should be. Regular maintenance is key to extending the life of your car, and will result in a better resale price when that time comes. It is also a cost saver as regular servicing will help you pick up smaller repairs early enough to prevent more serious and costly faults occurring further down the line. Most importantly it ensures that your car is roadworthy. Roadworthiness and road safety need to be priorities for all South Africans as we aim to reduce deaths on our roads,” concludes Ranft.

Road trip done and dusted – some basic checks worth considering

Holiday makers who travelled extensively over the festive season would have had their vehicles checked or serviced thoroughly in advance but now the road trip is done and dusted there may be some issues that need attention.
Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), suggests, “A quick diagnostic check at your accredited workshop will provide a heads-up, should the vehicle need urgent attention.”
However, vehicle owners can also do a few basic spot checks before the diagnostic assessment to flag areas for the mechanic.

Getting started

Cleaning the vehicle inside and out will make it easier to spot obvious damage and problem areas. Ensure daily travel and emergency accessories are still in place and have not been offloaded after the trip. These include basic tools, spare wheel, breakdown triangles, jump-start cables, first-aid kit and tyre pressure gauge.

Tyres and wheels

According to the Automobile Association (AA) damaged tyres and wheels are among the top 10 causes for breakdowns. Check tyre pressure, which might have been adjusted for the holiday load, along with the condition of tyres and wheels, including the spare.
Use a tread gauge to measure sufficient traction. Tyre tread should be 1.6mm. Should the gauge show less, it is time replace the tyre. Ensuring wheel balance and alignment are on point after the long trip also avoids uneven wear. Brake pads and fluid should also be checked.

Lights, indicators and windshield

Although the workshop review would include these, the owner can do a brisk once-over for peace of mind. The windscreen should be inspected for small cracks or distracting chips. Most car insurers would cover a windshield replacement without any hassle.

Checklist for accredited workshop along with diagnostic sweep

Have the cooling system and water levels checked. The mechanic could also inspect for any radiator leaks and ensure the electric cooling fan is working properly and oil levels are still correct.
Also check the battery’s charging performance – even if you had been on holiday for two weeks, travelling by air and leaving your vehicle behind. This time lapse could have caused an older battery to develop insufficient recharging performance.
If there had been a break-down during the journey, have the workshop check out the repair work and get assurance that all is well.
It is important to use your tried and trusted workshop. “We highly recommend using accredited workshops to ensure the highest standard of service and accountability. Should any repairs or maintenance be needed, the mechanic will be able to manage these for you quickly,” Ranft says.
Ultimately post road-trip maintenance is equally important for the safety of the driver and family. It can also avoid expensive repairs in future.

MIWA gets a look at Electric Vehicle developments

The Motor Industry Workshop Association’s (MIWA) Director, Pieter Niemand, MIWA Regional Chairman for the Eastern Cape, Jack Finn, and MIWA representative, Peter van Mosseveld, were recently invited to visit the uYilo eMobility Programme at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. The national programme was established in March 2013 as an initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency to enable, facilitate and mobilise electric mobility in South Africa.
The facilities visited include a national accredited battery testing laboratory supporting lead-acid and lithium-ion technologies, as well as, a material characterisation laboratory. The Electric Vehicles Systems facility supports component level integration, and the live testing environment serves to facilitate inter-operability within a smart-grid for the electric vehicle eco-system.
“It was incredible to see the level of advancement at this facility. It is important that we, as MIWA, remain pro-active and up-to-date on the progress of this industry as it will have a direct impact on us in the years to come. Our aim is to be as informed as possible so we can educate and inform members and together we can positively embrace change,” says Niemand.
MIWA is a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

From left: Joshua Omolo, Project Engineer uYilo; Bridget and Jack Finn from Finn Auto; Pieter Niemand, Director of MIWA; Peter van Mosseveld, MIWA representative; Edem Foli, Programme Manager uYilo; and Dr Nico Rust, Group Specialist: Energy Storage uYilo, during the visit to the uYilo eMobility Programme facility in Nelson Mandela University, PE.

A different kind of welder

A young woman from the Bedford township in the Eastern Cape plans to be an extraordinary welder by unleashing the different dynamics and fun of welding through her work.
Daniel Peacock, 22, completed a welding course in April 2019 under the Kasi Gals Helping Hands Group, with funding from the merSETA.
“During my training with Kasi Gals Helping Hands, I realised that welding is a multi-faceted and interesting field. I want to fly my welding career to great heights and the merSETA and Kasi Gals Helping Hands Group have been the wind beneath my wings.”

Kasi Gals Helping Hands Group is a community-based organisation in the Eastern Cape, aimed at eradicating unemployment among the youth by empowering them with skills to enter the job market.
“With unemployment being rife in the country, our objective is to breed a generation of young people, who are self-sufficient, by providing them with skills and knowledge to launch successful careers for themselves,” says Mandisa Gongqa, Training Coordinator at Kasi Gals Helping Hand Group.
She continues: “we are excited that the merSETA is able to assist us with the realisation of this objective. Our goal going forward is to establish partnerships with both public and private sector organisations, so that we can link them up with our learners for job placements.”
Gongqa describes Peacock as highly motivated with a willingness to explore new things.
“We are proud to have been able to assist in her career endeavours,” she adds.
Upon completion of her training, Peacock tested her skills and knowledge by providing welding services to her community from her backyard.
“I started practising at home to see what I could do. One of my first jobs was to extend the height of the gate at home. My parents have been my greatest motivation and are very supportive of my work,” she says.

Seeing her work, people from her area brought materials for her to weld.
“Young people around my area also started growing an interest in welding and asked me to teach them,” says Peacock.
Asked whether she ever felt intimidated by the notion that welding is predominantly male, Peacock says: “Nothing in this world is designed for a specific gender. As women, we need to adjust our mindsets and explore every opportunity at our disposal.”
Peacock is currently employed as a welder at Eastern Cape Mobi Trail, responsible for building mobile food containers.
“When I completed my matric in 2007, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but knew that whatever career I take up had to involve designing. I believe that the welding skills I have acquired will help me achieve this dream,” explains Peacock.
“My vision is to provide jobs to the youth in my area so that we can work together in uplifting our community,” she concludes.

Independence within the disabled community is becoming far more of a focus

Independence within the disabled community is becoming far more of an important focus and as such the use of one’s own vehicle without assistance is an integral part of that, says Dominic Sierra, Mobility Consultant at Chairman Industries.

The need to adapt and convert vehicles for use by the disabled is vital and is whole-heartedly endorsed by the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Association (RMI). Chairman of MIWA, Dewald Ranft, says as able-bodied people we often take for granted the ease of mobility. “Through the correct conversion and servicing of vehicles for the disabled they too can enjoy the freedom of being independent.”

Sierra explains that the hand control conversion is done in-house by its technicians as well as at select agents that are trained by Chairman Industries and are more than competent to fit the system. “Generally, a client will either call us before buying a vehicle for our opinion or advice on the suitability of it, or bring us a vehicle they already own. In certain cases, the dealership will contact us and bring a car through for conversion before it’s delivered to the client.”

He says the system is compatible with almost any automatic vehicle regardless of model or brand. “It is, however, a lot easier to do the conversions in both bigger vehicles because of the bigger cabin space and also in simpler vehicles, such as entry level hatchbacks, due to the simplicity of the cabin and space surrounding the driver.”

The hand control system is only available for automatics for someone without the use of their legs. “We will also do a clutch conversion for operation of just the clutch in a manual generally for a client with an amputation or a walking impairment,” says Sierra.

Due to the conversion not actually changing anything within the vehicle other than how the pedals are operated, there is no extra licensing or documentation required for the vehicle itself. “First time drivers are requested to make use of disabled driving schools and retake their driving test to obtain a supplemented license,” says Sierra.

Ranft adds that while the average servicing of the vehicle can be done at an independent workshop, such as a MIWA workshop, the servicing, fitment or removal of the hand control or clutch control needs to be done by those specialising in these products. Chairman Industries offers a free service to its hand control system once a year for a user. The vehicle will be test driven and all the components will be checked to be in safe working condition and any necessary adjustments made.

“As with all vehicles we strongly urge disabled drivers to ensure that their vehicles are serviced regularly. Safety on our roads as well as the safety of you, the driver, need to be the priority,” says Ranft.

While they have yet to see the market itself growing, Sierra says there is definitely a drive towards more independence for the disabled community. “We believe strongly in the safety and function of our hand control system and would like to see it used in more disabled-friendly vehicles,” he concludes.