The Guidelines for Competition in the South African Automotive Aftermarket came into effect on 1 July 2021 – a process that has taken more than three years to complete. It means that local motorists now have more choice on where they choose to service and maintain their vehicles, not just at Original Equipment Manufacturers, Distributors and Importers (collectively referred to as OEMs).
They will also be able to use independent service providers (ISPs) for maintenance and repair work.
While consumers have been granted more freedom, it’s important to understand that this freedom comes with increased responsibility. Any damages to a vehicle because of work performed or non-original spare parts fitted by ISPs could result in either parts or entire vehicle warranties being voided.
The National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA), the industry body representing more than 1 350 franchise dealers across South Africa, has compiled a list of five benefits that come with OEM supported service and maintenance plans for consumers to make informed decisions about the future maintenance of their vehicles.
1 Budget management
When you choose to purchase an OEM-backed plan with your vehicle, you know you are covered for the costs of upcoming maintenance and services up front. There’s no need to plan for the expense of scheduled work, which for those who don’t diligently manage their service books can spring up unexpectedly and hit wallets hard.
2 Hedge against inflation
An OEM plan incorporated into the vehicle purchase price affords protection against potential parts price increases in the future. The price of service and maintenance plans are calculated using parts prices at the time of sale. Motorists who pay separately for periodic service and maintenance work are unprotected against exchange rate fluctuations and inflation.
The parts price can increase drastically from year to year as almost all parts are imported and paid for in foreign currencies. For example, the variance in the value of the Rand between 6 June 2021 to 6 September 2021 saw a 6.7% negative change in the exchange rate to USD in just 90 days.
3 Quality workmanship
Vehicle servicing comes with immense risk and liability that could hurt the consumer if not executed and planned correctly. Franchise dealers are equipped with expert knowledge of your vehicle and technicians who have access to appropriate training and equipment. In other words, they know your car best, and you can be assured of safety and peace of mind with any work performed.
Modern cars are like tablets on wheels and are becoming more complex by the day. Today’s technically trained experts are more lab-coat and laptop than yesterday’s overall and lappie. Just like with accountants or insurance brokers, technicians require continual training and skills development. What worked ten, or even two years ago, may not apply to a vehicle sold last month. Detailed and practised knowledge of your vehicle is key to safe, effective and reliable repairs and maintenance.
In the unlikely event that something does go wrong after work is performed at a franchise dealer, you have the backing of established businesses with strong financial standing behind you. Car dealers and their respective OEM head offices have far more reputational risk than there would be with non-branded entities. Mainly because of the power of social media, franchise dealers and the brands they represent are likely to do all things reasonable to assist customers and often do so even when they are not at fault.
5 National footprint
If an OEM plan covers your car, you have access to a far greater network of dealer workshops around the country, and sometimes even across international borders.
Over years of ownership, you may form a trusted relationship with a dealer within a convenient vicinity. But when an OEM plan covers you, you also have the assurance of the same quality of parts, workmanship, processes and procedures from several franchises upholding OEM standards while travelling or after a move.
OEMs make significant investments in intensive training programmes to equip their franchised dealer technicians with the requisite skills and knowledge to deal with intricate procedures and introduce new technologies. These programmes are critical to ensuring vehicle safety and, in turn, the safety of technicians and, ultimately, motorists, not only in South Africa but also around the world.