Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement last night for a national 21-day lockdown, the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), are ramping up their appeal to Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) to convince Government to declare tyre-, parts- and accessory retailers, as well as repair- and maintenance servicing outlets for motor vehicles and motorcycles, “essential services” and not to limit their functioning as part of any business closures within South Africa due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Jakkie Olivier, Chief Executive Officer of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says that he believes the RMI, representing almost 8 000 businesses in the automotive aftermarket sector, can play a key role in the task teams that have been set up by BUSA in conjunction with Government to proactively assess and implement business initiatives to deal with the impact of Covid-19 in health, the labour market and the broader economy.
Olivier says the services provided by the auto aftermarket sector need to be viewed as essential services to support other critical and essential services sectors necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19. “It is imperative that essential deliveries and services are sustained via a network of reliable and safe transport, i.e. emergency vehicles, law enforcement, fire prevention services, delivery vehicles, etc. It is important that on-going maintenance and repairs are undertaken to these vehicles to keep them in a safe and roadworthy condition during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” says Olivier.
Currently this work is performed by both franchise, motor body repairers and independent mechanical workshops (RMI members) throughout South Africa and Olivier believes it is imperative that these workshops can continue to deliver these services to ensure that essential emergency services, local services and deliveries are not impeded. The same applies to tyre-, parts- and accessory retailers, which are required to provide an uninterrupted supply of both service- and safety critical components for motor vehicles, especially for the public transport sector that includes busses and minibus taxis.
“The proper functioning of all critical infrastructure is imperative during the response to the Covid-19 Pandemic for public health and safety, as well as communities’ well-being. Certain critical infrastructure services, such as the maintenance and repairs of motor vehicles and motorcycles by the retail automotive sector, have a special responsibility to continue operations in these extremely challenging times,” he says.
This approach is in line with global trends. The AutoCare Association in the USA, which is similar to RMI, managed within days to convince the US Federal Government to declare the retail auto aftermarket sector an “essential service” to support other critical and essential services. In other words, to keep delivery vehicles (passenger, light commercial and heavy), metro police, ambulances, courier services, fuel, food, electricity, etc. on the road through essential repairs and maintenance.
Olivier says he is of the view that that the auto aftermarket retail sector falls within the definition of enabling services i.e. professional and artisan services, to the extent that they are providing support in the Covid-19 response, essential and critical business continuity services.
Olivier says the RMI is also aware that the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) has been asked to provide the Public Private Growth Initiative with a motivated list of auto industry critical business continuity services which, inter alia, include the following: Critical vehicle maintenance e.g. recalls, servicing, maintenance and breakdown/collision repairers in order to ensure that emergency vehicles, delivery and transportation vehicles, and cars are kept safely on the road throughout the lockdown period so as not to delay any of the essential services or consumers ability to purchase food and medicine and obtain medical assistance
“We are acutely aware of the urgent need to contain the Covid-19 Pandemic, however it is also true that without key essential support services such as repair and maintenance servicing outlets for all motor vehicles and motorcycles as well as tyre, parts and accessory retailers, the emergency and critical services functions could be hampered due to poor maintenance and unforeseen breakdowns,” concludes Olivier.