You may soon be able to service your car where you like – if the Competition Commission gets its way
- The Competition Commission has released draft guidelines on how the automotive aftermarket industry, where cars are serviced and repaired, should work.
- It wants consumers to have a wide choice of where to service their cars – without worrying about warrantees – and the ability to use "non-original" spare parts.
- Also in the crosshairs: opulent car dealerships, and limits on part availability and training for independent service providers.
- Manufacturers say they don't oppose the reforms as such, but they're fuming about the way the competition watchdog is going about its business.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
If the Competition Commission has its way South Africans will have a wide choice of places to service and repair their cars in future, without having to worry about warrantees or using only original parts.
But local car manufacturers are not impressed by its plan, or at least how the watchdog has gone about putting it together.
The body on Friday published its draft guidelines for competition in the South African automotive aftermarket industry, which it hopes will eventually help make new cars and spare parts cheaper, as well as introducing much more competition in areas such as panel-beating and standard services.
Car manufacturers, the draft rules say, should draw up a list of requirements for shops that want to service their cars – and then authorise anyone who meets those requirements to do in-warranty service and repairs.
That would include repair shops that run "service and maintenance-only workshops" without (often expensive) new car dealerships attached.
To prevent service networks from being exclusionary, manufacturers must train anyone who asks at "a reasonable cost", the draft suggests, and must also sell original parts to anyone who wants them. Manufacturers will not be allowed to withhold technical information or "operational software" either.
While the manufacturers will not be obliged to pay for service and repairs at independent providers, say under a comprehensive motorplan, they would be required to make sure their customers know they can go elsewhere without losing their warrantees.
The rules also seek to make it easier to use generic spare parts. Where a specific part's warranty has expired, the document suggests, the owner should be able to fit a "non-original" spare "without losing out on the remainder of the vehicle's general warranty".
The Competition Commission also seems intent on ending the dominance of what industry insiders have described as "Taj-Mahal-style" dealerships: vast and opulent showrooms for new cars, the cost of which ultimately fall to consumers.
Any requirements manufacturers impose on their dealers "must be reasonable and have an economic rationale, particularly in relation to the size of land, show-rooms, furniture, fittings and finishes," the draft rules say.
Though it is only at the start of a likely long period of public input, the draft guidelines could "fundamentally change the current nature and structure" of motor retail and services in South Africa, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said in a statement on Monday.
Naamsa stressed – twice – that it has no objection to "the substantive reforms" proposed by the Competition Commission, but accused it of acting in bad faith and implied the rules could imperil billions of rands of investment in SA due from its members.
The automotive industry was already moving in the direction the Competition Commission would like, Naamsa said, albeit slowly, "creating a fertile environment upon which these reforms can be implemented without harming the economy".
The draft guidelines are open to public comment until 16 March.
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