In the past, motor dealerships were seen as glass fronted boxes with greasy workshops behind them. However, J.T. Ross’ new investment – the R30 million state-of-the-art Toyota dealership on the corner of Solomon Mahlangu (formerly Edwin Swales) Drive and Jaco Place – fully encapsulates a whole new concept.

“Dealerships are evolving. Nowadays, the modern dealership is an efficient and clean representation of the franchise’s global brand identity. The modern dealership represents the lifestyle that a brand’s vehicles encapsulate for potential customers. More and more franchises are moving towards lifestyle centres rather than mere utilitarian and functional spaces. Toyota is following a similar trend with this dealership being compliant to the global Toyota brand. Dealerships such as this one exemplify the automotive revolution as showrooms are modernised to enhance the shopping experience,” explains architect Zunaed Ballim from Boogertman & Partners.

This new dealership, a first for property development and management company, J.T. Ross, was opened at the end of last year and is already proving the perfect new home for McCarthy Toyota Mobeni which re-located from its 30 year-old property in South Coast Road.

McCarthy Motor Holdings spokesperson, Jimmy Smith, said the move was long overdue. McCarthy had looked for a suitable site to which to relocate to for four years without success. This prime site is strategically located along one of the area’s main arterial routes, enabling the dealership to claim its place as one of the largest and most accessible dealerships in Durban. 

J.T. Ross development director, Grant Smith, said that the custom built and highly specialised facility was likely to be the first of many similar developments for the company.

“This is our first motor dealership. We have built them before but not invested in them before, as this is a highly specialised area. However, this is a strategically located property and is perfectly located within the motor town to the south. Going forward, we see these sorts of properties forming a component of our overall property portfolio. If we have the right property, we will definitely look at optimising it for a motor dealership.”

Ballim pointed out that the prime location of this property was in keeping with another important trend when it came to modernisation of motor dealerships. “They are found closer to urban centres and less on the urban fringe. As a result, they are adopting less sprawl and more infill and vertical expansion methodologies.”

McCarthy Toyota Mobeni’s new home includes a large new car showroom with a large, dedicated hand over facility, a pre-owned car facility for 38 cars, 18 work bays and a storage zone.

Both Smith and Ballim agree that the new dealership fulfils its original mandate and is a “well designed, functional space that sites itself with distinction within its context.”

According to Ballim, the ultra-modern dealership is designed to encompass every single dealership related function with little or no overlap to maximise operational efficacy and customer comfort. These functions range from service drop off and waiting areas to car sales, parts component purchases, vehicle handover, car service and ancillary back of house functions to service pick up and car storage. Showrooms are intended to enhance the shopping experience, offering comfortable waiting rooms with many modern conveniences.

He added that new age dealerships are also far more concerned about energy usage and efficiency. ”Besides complying with the SAN10400 building regulation on energy efficiency, franchises are very specific about energy input and effluent treatment. Toyota Edwin Swales is compliant with Toyota’s highest eco standards.”

He went on to explain that, in this dealership, operational efficacy and flow were maximised, enabling the dealer to further improve and develop his business.

On the design side, he added that security did not come at the expense of an appealing, seemingly visually open/ transparent facility while landscaping was key to enhancing its character.

For both investor / developer and franchisee, providing for long term usage and re-usage were also key. Smith said that whilst J.T. Ross’ relationship with McCarthy Toyota Mobeni was likely to be longterm, there was a need for flexibility. “Whilst this development had to be very specialised, you have to be mindful of the fact that the user could change during or after the lease. So, the end result had to be adaptable and capable of being modernised.”