Rally to Read

Reading is something all too many of us take for granted yet, for hundreds of children in rural areas of South Africa, not being able to read (or write) is a fact of life.

It is not their fault. How far would your children have got in a school without educational materials: no reading books, exercise books, pens or pencils. No playground or play equipment, beyond paper crushed and taped together to resemble a ball. Perhaps no desks, running water or toilets.

Welcome to the reality of rural schooling for hundreds of thousands of South African children. But it does not have to be like this. A R35 000 sponsorship can make a lifetime of difference to hundreds of children. It can also give you an experience to remember.

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In the 20 years it has been operating, Rally To Read has found that a little goes a very long way in rural schools. That R35 000 will provide a rural primary school with two portable classroom libraries packed with carefully-selected books designed to teach children to read.

It will also fund a year’s additional teacher training for the school’s educators.

Each school is supported for three years — every year the books delivered are a little more advanced — so that by the time the programme finishes, a culture of reading and appropriate teaching is embedded.

Does it work? Independent studies show a rapid improvement in literacy skills at Rally To Read schools. Not convinced? Then come and see for yourself.

At no extra cost (besides fuel and alcoholic drinks), sponsors are invited to join Rally To Read when it delivers books to schools. Each year, hundreds of sponsors and companions join us on weekend rallies into far-flung corners of the country, where we meet the children we are helping, as well as their families and community members.

It is a big event in their lives. Sometimes hundreds of people turn out to greet the strangers offering their children a future. It can be emotional; tears are not uncommon.

There are four rallies in 2018. One, in Kwazulu-Natal, is already full. But there are still spaces in the others.

The Free State rally is on September 8-9 and will support primary schools around Reitz, Petrus Steyn and Tweeling. The Western Cape rally, on October 27-28, will take sponsors into the Winelands region around Robertson. Finally, the Eastern Cape rally will go to schools around Butterworth, in the former Transkei, on November 3-4. This is a new date; the rally was originally scheduled for September.

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Who are you likely to meet on these weekends?

Sponsors come from all kinds of industries, but transport and automotive companies have always been big supporters. Many of SA’s motor companies remain involved. In addition, Shell, Mercedes-Benz SA and the OneLogix/United Bulk group host the KZN, Eastern Cape and Free State rallies respectively, with Jonsson Workwear doing the same in the Western Cape. Hosts cover the costs of sponsors’ weekend food and accommodation.

Weekends start ridiculously early on Saturday morning when sponsors and guests (it may be colleagues or family) meet to load their vehicles with portable libraries and other educational materials. Convoys split later into small groups, each of which visits two schools. Once that’s done, everyone meets up again at nearby accommodation, usually a hotel, for drinks and dinner, where we share feedback and experiences.

On Sunday morning, participants have the opportunity to visit local places of interest, or they may head home after breakfast.

For more information about Rally To Read and details on how to become a sponsor, visit rallytoread.co.za

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Service with a smile

There is some service with a smile in the South African auto industry with Volkswagen and Audi dominating the top positions in the latest automotive customer care survey conducted by Ipsos in South Africa.

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This research, based on interviews with more than 20 000 customers in 2017, covered both purchasing and servicing experiences.

The sample of participating brands in the latest survey represented more than three out of every four new cars and light commercial vehicles sold through dealership channels in South Africa in 2017, as well as the consistency of results from year to year supports the credibility of the research as a valuable tool with which to measure customer service in the automotive market in South Africa.

The Volkswagen Group continues to fight the ongoing backwash of its 2015 so-called Dieselgate scandal and a host of vehicle recalls worldwide, but it seems its image remains strong if one looks at its dominance in terms of global vehicle sales and customer loyalty.

The excellent ratings by customers in both the purchasing and servicing aspects of vehicle ownership here in SA are evidence of this good relationship between these brands, their owners and the franchised dealers.

The Volkswagen and Audi brands have been in leadership positions in the purchasing experience in these annual Ipsos surveys for a number of years. In the latest survey Audi and Volkswagen both once again attained gold awards for the customer purchasing experience with Volkswagen also collecting gold in the LCV sales category.

Audi achieved the gold standard in the servicing experience for the past four years too, while Volkswagen has had a gold rating for both passenger car and LCV servicing for the past two years.

Nissan has made very positive strides in both its purchasing and servicing operations at its dealers and collected gold awards in both categories among local passenger car and light commercial vehicle buyers.

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Audi, Nissan, and Volkswagen were the only brands which received gold awards for passenger car purchasing, with several brands – Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Toyota, and Volvo – collecting silver, with Ford, Honda and Renault rating bronze in this category of the survey.

Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen were the only three gold award winners in terms of the light commercial purchasing experience, with Chevrolet, Ford and Isuzu collecting silver.

Five brands – Audi, Lexus, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen – earned gold awards for the passenger car servicing experience, with another five – Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Renault, and Volvo – rating silver. Honda was the sole recipient of a bronze award in this category.

Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen all earned gold awards for the light commercial vehicle servicing experience, with Chevrolet rating silver and Ford bronze.

“The consistency of good service that some brands deliver across their dealer network to so many customers over time is highly commendable as consistency is one of the most important factors in building a powerful brand reputation,” says Patrick Busschau, Business Unit Director at Ipsos.

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“Volkswagen and Audi brands continue to maintain particularly high levels of customer satisfaction in terms of both the buying and servicing of new passenger vehicles, year after year, despite facing very tough opposition in the local market.”

“What is also pleasing to note is a number of other brands are also upping their game to challenge for the Gold medal positions as well. Nissan is now seeing the fruits of their labours in all categories while Toyota can also see reward for their consistent effort in the Passenger Car Servicing and both Sales and Servicing for Light Commercials.”

“These latest results underline the fact the custodians of these brands are certainly not sitting back and resting on their laurels but rather use the customer feedback from our ongoing surveys as well as other sources to improve areas of weakness.”

Confidence under pressure

Consumer confidence is under severe pressure from rapidly escalating prices, political uncertainty and an economy that has not kicked into the higher gear anticipated when Cyril Ramaphosa became President.

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Mark Domisse (left) and Ghana Msibi

This was the underlying sentiment that emerged from the comments at the recent (23rd) annual National Automobile Dealer’s Association (NADA) awards function for Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) results.

“The DSI survey forms a vital link in the relationship between dealers and manufacturers. This year’s survey showed a high completion percentage rate of more than 80% in the passenger vehicle section,” says Mark Dommisse, National Chairperson of NADA. “We also had one of the highest completion ratios in DSI history this year, which is extremely encouraging.

“The DSI survey provides the dealer body with a platform to provide robust feedback to manufacturers and importers. In most cases, the findings are used to benefit the working relationship for both parties.”

Over the years, the results of the survey have been used by dealer councils and manufacturers as an effective management tool to address areas of concern and thereby improve service delivery throughout the entire value chain to the ultimate benefit of the consumer.

“Political uncertainty has had a major effect on investment appetites, as well as consumer spending on large ticket items,” he says.

“While consumer confidence is relatively high, the rest of the underlying metrics such as household debt, inflation, fuel, and increased consumer taxes are putting our businesses under pressure. Apart from a very slow economy that has not quite manifested in the Ramaphoria everyone had hoped for, the retail motor industry is facing frightening pressures.

“We need to embrace the ever-growing presence of digital disruptors in our game. They are competitors to the traditional dealer model, used car supply and our F&I departments and we are being challenged. We need to evolve and continue to align with this new generation of customer.”

Paul de Vantier, Managing Director, Lightstone Consumer, noted when it comes to online marketing and dealing, this industry has seen a growing number of people who will transact the whole deal online, from start to finish, with the dealer simply being a delivery and service point.

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“This is not something that’s coming, he says, “it is something that is already happening – and this trend will grow.”

De Vantier also made note of South Africa’s ageing car parc. In 2015 it was 9,6 years, but now it has aged to 9,9 years. He attributes this to rising vehicle prices, affordability and general consumer confidence.

“Consumers either cannot afford to replace their vehicles or lack the confidence to commit to long term financing deals,” he says.

Ghana Msibi, the Executive Head of Sales and Marketing at WesBank, says: “We cannot ignore the largest disruptor out there – the new generation of customers. As an industry, we cannot continue to offer them solutions on the same basis as we have done before.

“Our traditional approach has given us a superior footing in the industry, but if we do not meet them halfway, they will ultimately find alternatives that suit them.”

NADA steps up

With the imminent publishing of the second draft to the Code of Conduct for Competition in the South African Automotive Industry, Vehicle Repair and Servicing and Parts Supply, the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) says the association supports the concept of customers having a choice of where to maintain their vehicle.

Whether this is just lip service to a Bill that will be passed into law or not, the fact NADA is making the statement signals a huge success for the Right to Repair campaign that has been tireless in its quest to break all, or some, of the stranglehold auto dealers have had on customers.

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“Where the vehicle is within warranty and/or maintenance plan, the nearest franchised dealer remains the best place to look after the customer’s vehicle,” says Mark Dommisse, National Chairperson of NADA.

“These dealers understand the technology and design of the vehicle and are best-equipped to diagnose any faults. Franchised dealers employ qualified technicians, who undergo regular training with the manufacturer to ensure that they are fully abreast of the latest technology incorporated into the vehicles they work on. A well-trained specialist is best equipped to repair any faults.

“Today’s automobile is a technical piece of engineering with cutting-edge technology and design. The franchised dealer utilises correct tools, specialised diagnostic equipment and extensive, vehicle-specific training on a customer’s vehicle when it is in their service area, resulting in peace of mind that it is being well taken care of.

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“For those customers choosing to purchase their vehicle with a maintenance plan, they are largely unaffected by the cost of these repairs, having already provided for their maintenance requirements within their purchase.

“Where the parts or vehicle are out of warranty and/or maintenance plan, the customer’s choice is even greater, where the customer is free to choose a franchised dealer on the above basis or use an independent specialist based on their affordability,” says Dommisse.

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Les Mc Master, director of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA) says the whole point of the Right to Repair campaign is to allow you to select where your vehicle is serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices.

“There is a need for a fair and competitive regulatory environment that enables freedom of choice for consumers and gives aftermarket Small Medium Enterprises a chance to stay in business. South African legislature needs to follow the international Right to Repair trend which promotes South Africa’s existing consumer and competition laws.

“As things currently stand in South Africa, dealerships sell most vehicles with a built-in service plan. What this means is you buy the vehicle with a non-negotiable service plan included in the price. What you need to realise is this service plan could be hugely expensive and cost anywhere between R30 000 to R 60 000 or more. Added to that you are also charged a hire purchase interest.”

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In a recent Vehicle Service Survey concluded by the Automobile Association (AA), 53% of car owners surveyed said they service their vehicles at the original dealer franchises, while 37% take their vehicles to private mechanics. The rest either service their vehicles themselves or do not service their vehicles at all.

Speaking on behalf of NADA, Dommisse notes franchised dealers represent about 25% of the market and that independent workshops service the vast majority of South Africa’s car parc.

The association recognises the need to strive for greater transparency and value-add in the way service and maintenance plans are built into the price of new vehicles, but much of this onus rests with the Franchisor who controls the price structure of a vehicle. Dommisse stresses these plans remain a peace-of-mind benefit to new and pre-owned customers as a guarantee that today’s price will be applied to all future service.

“In a debt-stressed country, as well as an industry reliant on an unstable currency, securing pricing today and ensuring budget certainty, is absolutely fundamental,” he says.

NADA supports and has contributed to a range of policies and programmes such as the Automotive Industry Code of Conduct for South Africa in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), client Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and now a Code for expanded competition. Although cautious, NADA supports the Competition Commission in its drive for a more regulated and open aftermarket, provided safety and sustainability remain at the heart of all matters.

“We have supported this practice for a long time, looking out for the interests of consumers within stringent franchised dealer agreements,” says Dommisse.

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“However, we urge consumers outside of warranty to choose their repairers carefully, based on the chosen facility’s credibility and the customer’s ability to have recourse on any repairs or parts supplied. This practice not only protects the value of the customer’s vehicle but ensures the safety of those driving them.

“Consumer beware.” That, in a nutshell, is the advice from Johan van Vreden, the ombud for the motor industry of South Africa (MIOSA).

“All the responsible players in the industry have registered with the MIOSA, in the interest of customer satisfaction and protection against customer exploitation. “Will you take your sick child to an unqualified medical practitioner? Therefore, if your vehicle needs a repair, ensure the service provider is qualified and registered with the MIOSA.

“By dealing with a service provider not registered with the MIOSA you are dealing with individuals who are operating their trade with little regard for the consumer. It also becomes extremely difficult for the MIOSA to assist consumers where non-compliant service providers are involved.”

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“We want to see change. We want equality, transparency and sustainability in our industry. R2RSA plans to make these things a reality and we call on you, the consumer, to support the cause and ask questions before making that car purchase,” says Mc Master.

“As NADA, we fully support fair practices in the motor industry when they create a healthy balance between benefiting customers and franchised dealers alike. This will allow South Africans access to a sustainable and credible industry with the ability to keep safe and reliable vehicles on our roads,” says Dommisse.

So, you’ve made the decision – you want to buy a car and you’ve decided which one. A big question you should be asking is how you want to service the car?

Manufacturing awards boost industry

The changing face of the manufacturing industry in South Africa will be given a boost in November with the debut of the first awards officially recognising innovation and excellence in Advanced Manufacturing.

The National Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Awards, is hosted under the auspices of the DTI co-funded, national Composites Cluster with a wide scope including the key drivers of the 4th industrial revolution.

All companies operating in the advanced manufacturing field, including 3D printing, robotics, automation, AI, laser cutting and etching, CNC machining, software, big data, IOT and composites will be eligible for national recognition.

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Companies or organisations may make submissions in six categories including: Scholarly impact in advanced manufacturing, Industry advancement in advanced manufacturing, Export proficiency, Contribution to Import replacement, Composites Innovation and Most promising ‘start- up or newcomer’.

Composites Cluster MD, Andy Radford, formerly an industrialist at the CSIR, before the Composites Cluster was established with the support of the South African government, said the awards would play a key role in advancing the country’s advanced manufacturing agenda.

“As we push to consolidate and develop our manufacturing strategy, it is essential as a collective – government and private sector stakeholders identify, promote and reward innovation in the advanced manufacturing and composites industry.”

Radford said the awards, which would be made annually at the African Advanced Manufacturing and Composites Show (with the inaugural event set to take place from November 7-9) would also “aim to showcase South Africa’s capabilities and popularise Advanced Manufacturing in industry and to learners.”

He said entries close on July 27.

The National Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Awards will take place as part of the African Advanced Manufacturing and Composites Show, which will include a dynamic, interactive exhibition, conferences and factory tours.

Organisers say several international delegations have already confirmed, including leading Advanced manufacturing companies from France and Germany, while a focused campaign will draw dominant advanced manufacturers from Africa.

“While manufacturing remains an essential part of South Africa’s economy – contributing around 19% of GDP, our efforts towards Advanced Manufacturing in South Africa are highly fragmented, but we do have significant pockets of excellence,” Radford says.

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“The African Advanced Manufacturing and Composites Show will not only bring all the key role-players and technology partners together towards a common vision, it would also inspire emerging engineers.

“Three-dimensional printing, lasers, automation and artificial intelligence are exciting tools to encourage a new generation of engineers and scientists but we need to expose them and industry to these technologies and there is no time to waste.”

Radford added the KPMG 2016 Global Manufacturing Survey, showed the extent to which global manufacturers were racing for advanced manufacturing leadership.

“Some 25% of 360 respondents said hey had already invested in three-dimensional printing and additive manufacturing technologies. An equal number had also already invested in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing technologies.

“Two-fifths of survey respondents said they would definitely channel significant amounts of their research and development investments towards robotics before 2019.

“The message is clear that certain manufacturers and manufacturing countries will ensure their sustainability and growth in Industry 4.0 where others will be left increasingly far behind in servicing an increasingly demanding global client base.

“The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium venue, alongside the North End Lake, is ideal for the outdoors demonstration of boats, vehicles, and drones all of which encapsulate Advanced Manufacturing technologies and indoor exhibits showcasing automation, computing and 3d printing, among others.

The show will be accessible to both trade and public visitors.

Radford said the organisers of the Show have a vision and strategy to ensure that the African Advanced Manufacturing and Composites Show attracted global role-players in all areas of Advanced Manufacturing, including Composites and especially African role-players.

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To this end Radford said delegations from France and Germany have already confirmed while an MOU had been signed with UK Composites and a marketing campaign would target African buyers.

 

Big investment from Opel

Since the withdrawal of General Motors from South Africa, Unitrans – the dealer group that took over importation and distribution of the Opel brand – has fulfilled its new product promise by launching the Crossland X in November last year and the Grandland in May this year.

Perhaps more importantly though, there has been ‘behind the scenes activity’ with Opel Germany setting up a wholly-owned local subsidiary, Opel South Africa, and investing more than R700-million into parts, warranty and service plans for Opel customers in Southern Africa.

In addition to that ,Opel’s South African dealership networkis engaged in a R20-million investment in corporate identity facility upgrades to bring the new Opel dealerships in line with the brand’s international ‘look and feel’.

Unitrans elected to employ local signage contractors to roll out the new Opel brand identity and improved customer experience centres.

“Opel wants to stimulate additional local job creation and support local business, and our local suppliers met the German required standards,” says Brian Hunter, General Manager of Unitrans.

General Motors (who traditionally handled the distribution for German brand Opel) withdrew from various right-hand drive markets around the globe in 2017, and Opel used the opportunity to re-focus its dealership network in South Africa.

There are currently 35 fully operational Opel dealerships, with more expected to open inthe next 60 months as the brand regains its traction locally.

Bill Mott, Opel’s director of international sales operations in Germany, indicated Opel is focused on growth in Southern Africa and has clear objectives to achieve this.

“We view South Africa as a very important market,” Mott says. “South Africa is a strategic investment for Opel and our aim is to take the brand from strength to strength in South Africa and other key markets.”

Hunter added: “We are delighted investment in the Opel brand in South Africa has now exceeded R1,5-billion when one combines the investment of Opel International, the Unitrans Opel distributor and the group of Opel Dealers. We estimate that this investment now employs more than 1 000 people.”

Having been in South Africa for over 80 years, Opel is one of the oldest car brands operating in the country and the brand the South African Motoring Guild voted the new Opel Astra as the South African ‘Car of the Year for 2017’.