South Africa’s Super Group has opened a large retail centre for used 4X4 vehicles that, it believes, records several automotive retail ‘firsts’. It represents an investment of about US$ 10 million. It is essentially a 4X4 theme park and is the brainchild of twins Mike and Pete Tsafendakis who took on the project as a challenge after turning Super Group’s body repair operation around.

The centre, known as Xtreme 16, incorporates a showroom for 300 late model used 4X4 vehicles, two tracks simulating off road driving conditions – one an introduction for novice owners and the other for those seeking a greater challenge – a restaurant, a supervised children’s playing area, computer games terminals for teenagers, toy and merchandise centres for 4X4 enthusiasts, outdoor accessories sales area and a trackside cafe.

“ Our aim is to provide the potential customer with a complete fam ily 4X4 experience and to revolutionise the process of selling used vehicles,” says Clifford Joffe, the centre’s marketing manager. “The concept is the result of extensive market research both here and beyond our borders and initial public reaction indicates it has been greeted with great enthusiasm.”

SUVs are extremely popular in South Africa, which offers owners many opportunities to put them to their intended use in the outdoors. Resorts in remote areas cater for enthusiasts with specialised trails of varying difficulty and accommodation varying from the spartan to five star luxury.

A feature of the showroom that is dominated by metal, glass and wood design features is what Joffe terms “silent salesmen”. These are touch-screen terminals which allow customers to access a variety of topics including vehicle prices, comparative specifications, courses offered by the resident Offroad Academy driving school, 4X4 vacation destinations, service advice, a repayments calculator at varying interest rates and the facilities offered on site. The advantage, Joffe says, is that all of this information is accessible without the subjective persuasion of a salesman – which many potential customers resent.

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The centre also houses a small conference centre, which includes a 55-seater presentation theatre. This is for hire by companies who wish to offer clients a conference in the morning, followed by lunch at the restaurant and then a leisure experience on the tracks afterwards.

Vehicle presentation is meticulous and each vehicle undergoe

“Our aim is to provide the potential customer with a complete family 4X4 experience and to revolutionise the process of selling used vehicles”

s a 125-point pre-sales check before it is consigned to the sales floor. Any faults are corrected at this point. “This is why we claim our vehicles are ‘better than new’,” Joffe says.

Neither is there any question of price bargaining. All the vehicles are marked with a cover file containing all relevant information such as year of manufacture, mileage and non-negotiable price. Many of the vehicles are still under factory warranty but the option of an extended two-year warranty is available.

Finance and insurance is available and Wesbank, one of the country’s leading vehicle finance providers, has a branch in the showroom, which takes the form of a three-level wooden platform snaking its way around a dead tree.

“Joffe says the dealership will seek relationships with its clients which transcend the normal CSI model. “

Joffe says the dealership will seek relationships with its clients which transcend the normal CSI model. An example is the “kit” with which they are presented when they make their purchase. It includes such items as a voucher for children to spend at the toys for boys and girls outlets on the premises, Automobile Association special membership with a dedicated breakdown team, a voucher for a free drive around one of the tracks and special offers from Virgin Atlantic. Links for special offers from other providers are currently being negotiated.

“We want to create a buzz around the centre which will offer something for the entire family,” adds Joffe.

The launch of the centre has been backed by a strong media campaign including press and radio advertising and teaser billboards along main routes. The company also owns an adjoining site at which it intends setting up a theme dealership for exotic cars but this is still in the early planning stages.