Imagine a future where more car repair workshops open shop because they have access to technical information, tools and training, and competitive pricing means more people are servicing their cars more regularly. This could be a reality, says Gunther Schmitz, Chairman of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA). “Fair competition means parts and servicing prices will drop and as vehicle owners have greater choice, they will be more willing to service their vehicles regularly. There’s no doubt this will lead to increased employment and job opportunities.”
The Right to Repair campaign is lobbying for just this kind of change and believes the proposed Automotive Code of Conduct is the way forward. The campaign aims to allow consumers to select where their vehicles are serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices in the workshop of their choice. “It’s not workshops alone that will be effected but engineering establishments, pump rooms, parts suppliers and fitment centres, to name a few. Dealerships too will benefit as they will have access to service a greater range of vehicles,” says Schmitz.
Unfortunately, the converse is also true. “If we don’t see change soon, there is a very real threat that in a few years’ time many of these independent workshops will go out of business as they can no longer diagnose and repair new and existing models. We are already seeing this happening. Job loss will be inevitable,” he says.
According to Stats SA in a document on the motor trade industry, in 2015 small and micro enterprises made up 91,4% of those employed to do maintenance and repairs. Based on figures provided by the Motor Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO), an estimate of 245 000 people are currently employed in the aftermarket sector. “These jobs are in jeopardy.”
He adds that there is no evidence of job losses due to dealerships shutting down in countries where access to information has been granted. “There is also not one country around the world where major manufacturers have pulled out of the country because of a code of conduct such as that proposed for South Africa. Rather the competition has stimulated economic growth,” says Schmitz.
“The sustainability of the aftermarket needs to be a priority because it is a major contributor to employment in South Africa. There is also potential for growth. This will continue to be a strong motivator for the Right to Repair campaign,” he concludes.