Brian Joss – Motorists are finally allowed to service their cars under strict risk-adjusted trading measures, hygiene and social distancing restrictions, following the announcement by trade and industry minister, Ebrahim Patel, this week.
Pieter Niemand, national director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), an associate member of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, representing nearly 2 600 businesses and 31 200 employees in the independent aftermarket workshop environment, said he was relieved that the workshops could now start trading conservatively, not only for emergency repairs but also for cars that are overdue for a service.
“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 becomes critical,” says Niemand. The repair of comfort features or sale and installation of non-essential accessories will still not be permitted and does not fall into the definition of essential repairs and maintenance.
Niemand confirmed that the opening of workshops would follow the same phased approach as the rest of the automotive market with all outlets operating with up to 30% of employees, subject to a maximum of one employee or customer per every nine square metres of floor space, provided that small businesses may operate with a minimum of five employees.
Niemand said from a safety perspective, 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 2 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, 5 – 20 customers drop-of their vehicles in a period of about 2 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 already 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.
CAPTION: Sterile environment: Pieter Niemand, MIWA’S national director