Right to Repair pushes for transformation, economic growth
GOOD news for the motor sector is that despite the tough economic times facing South Africans, more independent workshops are opening their doors, with a growing number of these being black-owned.
On the downside, if there isn’t change in terms of allowing these workshops access to fair competition in the market, they will not be open for long.
“There is great potential for real transformation which will lead to economic growth in this sector particularly,” said Gunther Schmitz, chair of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA).
He explained that current exclusionary practices mean SMEs are being driven out of business.
“If there is no change, it’s likely that in five years workshops will no longer be able to service vehicles.”
Pieter Niemand, director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (Miwa), said from July 2016 to August 2018 over 230 black-owned workshops have become Miwa members.
This is out of a total of 520 workshops that joined during the same period.
“This is encouraging. The majority of our members are small businesses. We believe it is our mandate to create and promote a culture wherein member businesses will meaningfully participate in transformation which will enable inclusive growth and employment for all.”
Niemand added that the regulatory environment poses huge challenges for small business as the application of laws is unpredictable, resulting in businesses losing focus on growth.
“Equal opportunities will achieve and maintain a competitive economy, ensuring all members remain sustainable. However, we believe strongly that only through change in respect of the right to repair will the economy open up for these workshops and make this more viable,” he said.
Sisa Mbangxa, chair of the African Panel Beaters and Motor Mechanics Association, agreed, adding that many previously disadvantaged individuals who open automotive repair workshops found out they can’t work on cars that are in warranty and are insured vehicles.
“They can’t even work on government vehicles due to red tape, monopoly and unfair competition in the automotive industry. We believe that with the introduction of Right to Repair in South Africa the previous disadvantaged artisans or workshops will be able to compete fairly with the historical advantaged workshops.”
He said this will assist these workshops to have more work and thrive. “Right to Repair will also assist our government in addressing radical economic transformation.
“Decent and sustainable jobs will be created and will bring back human dignity to currently impoverished communities.”
Previously disadvantaged individuals’ workshops will have access to technical information from workshops and branding where necessary.
“Another serious challenge that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency is the lack of infrastructure in the townships and rural areas, skills upgrades and so on,” said Mbangxa.
Schmitz said the implementation of the proposed code of conduct will open the way for more previously disadvantaged indi- viduals to own dealerships and other businesses in the sector.
“Currently, aftermarket repairers are being denied access to codes, tools, information and parts. In addition, it is financially inaccessible for many to become accredited service providers for Original Equipment manufacturers [OEMs].
“OEMs may argue that the safety of the driver will be compromised because of parts quality and skills of repairers, and that warranties are standard across all industries.
“Our response is that parts are manufactured by suppliers not OEMs, and the aftermarket is highly skilled.
“The inaccessibility to information is inhibiting repairs, not skills. Just because warranties are standard across industries in SA does not mean they should not be challenged.
“In Europe and the United States warranties are handled differently. Ultimately, we need to create jobs and sustain them.
“We need transformation and empowerment. The time for change is now,” he said.
National Association of Autormotive Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) on Monday released a statement in which it said automotive companies accept most of the principles in the Draft Voluntary Code of Conduct by the Competition Commission, however, the proposed operational application thereof needs further extensive consideration and review.
In this regard, Naamsa is in the process of preparing a response regarding, amongst other things, in-warranty work, training and other elements — for submission to the Competition Commission by end October 2018.
Naamsa said it envisages an “evolving process which will involve further discussions with the Competition authorities”, and that the association will meet the ministry of Economic Development on transforming the automotive value chain.
Nelson Gumede is one of thousands of mechanics who hope to benefit from the Right2Repair campaign.