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Known as Automan, the business is jointly owned by well known businessman Frans Basson, chairman of MBD, a leading provider in accounts receivable management solutions and David Jelliman, and expert in the pre-owned vehicle market. The core concept is to get owners of petrol-guzzling clunkers to trade them in for more fuel efficient and technologically advanced safer used vehicles.
Since its official launch in April 2007, the business has taken off like a rocket on steroids with each month’s turnover exceeding the previous month’s by double digits.
Automan CEO David Jelliman said the fact that the dealership carries a wide variety of stock ranging from a reconditioned VW Beatle in pristine condition to a multi-million rand Lamborghini, as well as rich boys and girls toys like jet skis and ocean going yachts, was a major point in its favour.
“We see ourselves as dream facilitators providing whatever fantasy in the car or boating environment a client might want ranging from river run abouts to multi million rand sea-going luxury yachts,” Jelliman said.
As its slogan the company adopted “Live Life Drive” to signify the fact that it had established itself at the epicentre of the used vehicle and lifestyle market where brand and personalised service delivery was part of the parcel of Automan.
The luxury boat business the company has launched will sell a wide range of boats from different parts of the world ranging in price from R25 000 for a rubber dinghy to top-of-the-line imported gin palaces that sell for around R85-million and comes ready to sail the seven seas.
While more than 200 motor franchises around the country are on the verge of closing and both the new and used car market shrinking significantly, Jelliman said they did some serious soul searching prior to opening their dealership.
“While the writing was already on the wall last year that the economy was going into a slump, none of us envisaged the meltdown that has brought many banks around the world to their knees and has also substantially tightened the local credit market.
“Because of the flexibility of our concept and the fact that we cover the widest range of vehicles imaginable, we have escaped the brunt of the impact and are still maintaining our double digit growth,” Jelliman said.
More than half of the country’s 1 700 franchises are either in the red or barely breaking even threatening the jobs of some 50 000 people, Jelliman said.
Marcel de Klerk, Absa’s managing executive of vehicle and asset finance said vehicle dealers had enormous stock levels. The ability to service their debt on their showroom floors would become a crisis if sales continued to slide by more than 20% year on year in the last quarter of this year.
Jelliman said one of Automan’s great strengths were the fact that it had an incredibly aggressive marketing team and the right product at the right price. “We make the buying experience as pleasant as possible”.
“We don’t wait for customers to come to us – we go to them and explain the advantages of trading in the gas guzzler they own at present to a used more fuel efficient vehicle. Comparing petrol consumption on a typical newer model to an older car shows significants savings and that usually clinches the deal.
The company’s boat division is also showing healthy growth, Jelliman said.
“While it is true that the majority of South Africans had to tighten their belts, there are still many amongst them who have the money to invest in ocean going yachts costing millions and we are lucky enough to have several of these individuals as our clients.”
Business News Sector Tags: Motoring|