There was a time when you couldn’t do a three-point turn in Voortrekker Road without landing up at three different second-hand car dealerships, but the sluggish economy has seen many of those that once littered the strip close their doors.
André Groenewald, 60, of Panorama, and owner of André Groenewald Motors, is still there after 23 years, and he attributes the longevity of his business to savvy business decisions.
André was a bright-eyed and bushy tailed 18-year-old when he started in the motor trade with Atkinson’s Motors in the 1970s. He fondly remembers selling his first car, a Toyota Corolla, in 1979 for R4 500.
He bought the much-sought-after-at-the-time three-litre Ford Cortina in 1978 for R7 000. “It was my first car. It was yellow, and I was 27 years old at the time,” he says.
He started his career as a salesman at a Toyota Corolla dealership in Goodwood. “I worked there for five years and later worked at Goodwood Motors for two and a half years and following that I joined CY Motors as a partner.”
He opened André Groenewald Motors, at 166 Voortrekker Road, in 1993. “This lot used to be a BP petrol station. At that stage, you could operate with 10 cars, but stock value was R180 000 and the ticket value of cars used to be between R18 000 and
R15 000. Today the stock value of 10 cars costs between R850 000 and R900 000 and I buy each car for between R80 000 and R85 000.”
André says his clients have changed over the years. These days, he mostly does business with people of colour who “started coming into the market after 1994”.
Talking about economic trends within the second-hand car dealership trade, he says: “Everyone would like to, ideally, buy a new car, but, at the moment, the economy is tough. Currently, the ratio is, 2.5 second-hand cars to one new car. New-car sales are losing their speed and pressure all the time.
“A misconception is that because new-car sales are suffering, second-hand-car sales should flourish. If we had cars, it would be a boom, but we don’t because the new cars are not selling.”
He says a third of second-hand-car dealers along Voortrekker Road closed down between 2007 and 2009 when the recession was at its worst. “A lot of new businesses have opened their doors mostly catering to the lower end of market. I call them the ‘as is cars’, which you buy and any problems that crop up are the responsibility of the buyer.”
André has 35 used cars on his lot; however, he normally has 50.
“I love cars. I drove my first car when I was 18 years old. I knew the owner of Goodwood Motors, André van der Berg, and that is when the car bug bit.
“Goodwood Motors would have been 42 years old today but it closed its premises two years ago at 40 years old. However, it is still operating (in a down-scaled capacity),” he says.
“At this stage, MC Motors and myself are the oldest second-hand car dealers in Goodwood,” says André.
The cheapest car on his lot is a Nissan Micra which costs
R60 000; the most expensive is a Land Cruiser going for R390 000.
The second-hand car business, he says, has always been a “man’s world”, and he never thought he would employ a saleswoman. But times have changed, and
10 months ago, he hired Chantelle Lonte. “She is doing exceptionally well and just has a good way of interacting with the clients and monthly is ranked in the top-two salespeople of the month,” says André.
These days, he is semi-retired and says “interacting with clients” is one of the things he will miss most about the second-hand car business when he finally calls it quits.
Goodwood has changed over the years, he says, and business owners are plagued daily by crime and loiterers. But he hopes the planned roll-out of a special ratings area, where ratepayers pay for extra cleaning and security services, will help to deal with those problems.