In­hibit­ing re­pairs

Right to Re­pair pushes for trans­for­ma­tion, eco­nomic growth

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

— WR.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

Nel­son Gumede is one of thou­sands of me­chan­ics who hope to ben­e­fit from the Right2Re­pair cam­paign.

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