New man to steer motor body repairers’ sector

Brian Joss – Cape Town-based Charles Canning has been appointed national chairman of the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), a member of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), following in his father’s footsteps – Barry Canning who was one of SAMBRA’s first national chairman – and Border Regional Chair, Bruce Cumming has been appointed National Vice Chair.

Richard Green, national director of SAMBRA says the men are no strangers to the motor body repair sector and will add great value to the organisation. Charles has spent the last 27 years in the industry.  He is a third-generation family member in the  highly successful Cannings, and is passionate about the industry.  “I love the satisfaction we bring to clients’ when a traumatic experience has been resolved. I really enjoy watching my staff making the world a better place, one repair at a time. This business has been built on honesty, integrity and sustainability and those are the qualities we need to entrench in all our members.”

Similarly Bruce, comes from a long collision repair history of three generations manning the Gordon Cumming body repair shop. The original downtown body shop was founded by Gordon Cumming in 1950, and is one of East London’s oldest family business operations in collision repair. Today the Cumming family operate one of the most modern production facilities in South Africa. It’s the result of 65 years of hard endeavours in the body shop business. Like Cannings, service, quality and integrity form the foundation on which Bruce and his family have built their brand. “Without these elements the rest is just bricks and mortar,” says Bruce.

As chairman Canning is determined to take the association back to the members in the trenches.  “I think that for a long time it’s been out of reach of the members. Our members want to see tangible things – we want to take SAMBRA back to the members and we want them to really start seeing tangible value,” he says. He acknowledges the industry is tough out there. “We are in a completely overtraded sector in a poor climate; there are too many barriers for entry for shops to function and provide services and the shortage of skills is a real issue, as is the retention of talented staff. 

Cumming is equally passionate about the skills shortage and believes strongly in the value of apprenticeships. He is also a strong supporter of buying local. His shop currently has nine apprentices and will be taking a further 15 at the end of the year. “It’s a big investment but so necessary if we are to grow the industry. You can’t help everyone but you can certainly help the person in front of you and that is what is going to grow this economy and help unemployment.”

Canning’s advice for newcomers in the sector is  don’t over capitalise, concentrate on being compliant, make sure that the car parc you are attracting is relevant to your business model, protect your bottom line at all costs, a full workshop doesn’t always guarantee good profit margins, and make each customer feel as if they are your only customer.

CAPTION: Richard Green, national director of Sambra and new chair Charles Canning.

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