A R30 million motor dealership in south Durban’s rapidly evolving “motor strip” along Solomon Mahlangu (formerly Edwin Swales) Drive is a first for property development and investment company J.T. Ross.

The new dealership will be the new home of McCarthy Toyota Mobeni which is currently located on South Coast Road.

McCarthy Motor Holdings spokesperson, Jimmy Smith, said McCarthy had looked for a suitable property to which to relocate for four years without any success. This property is in a plumb position along one of the city’s main arterial routes and would enable the dealership to claim its place as one of the largest motor dealerships in Durban.

McCarthy Toyota Mobeni, which opened over 30 years ago, has outgrown its present property and the facilities were out dated, he said.

A spokesperson for Bidvest of which McCarthy is a part, said that, in keeping with their Toyota dealership’s upgrading policy, the property on Solomon Mahlangu Drive was chosen.  “Locations of new dealerships are severely restricted by the area in which the motor manufacturer, the franchisor, designates the franchisee’s geographical boundaries for which the franchisee holds the brand.  This site offers excellent exposure for the dealership and is easily accessible.”

J.T. Ross Development Director, Grant Smith, said that the custom built facility – which will be owned by J.T. Ross – is expected to be ready for handover to McCarthy in late 2014.

“This is our first motor dealership. We have built them but we have not invested before as this is a highly specialised area. However, this is a strategically located property within motor town to the south.

J.T. Ross recently amalgamated the different sites into a 10 000m2 property. The existing buildings on the property, which date back to 1960, included a workshop and scaffolding facility, have been demolished to make way for the new development which has recently commenced. Once completed, the buildings will be in the order of 4 500m2.

Smith said that the new facility would double the size of McCarthy Toyota’s existing premises and would not only provide for an extensive new car showroom with a large, dedicated hand over facility but would also accommodate a used car facility for 38 cars, 18 work bays and a storage area.

McCarthy’s Jimmy Smith said that the new dealership would allow McCarthy Toyota to run a bigger service department than at present and would provide more parking which was particularly important for a motor dealership. They would be able to display more new and second hand cars.

In addition, the new site would enable McCarthy Toyota to expand its heavy truck facility at its existing property on South Coast Road, he explained.

Smith said that this would not be the company’s last investment in South Durban, despite this being an expensive and challenging area, as it is extremely old and built up.

He said existing properties in south Durban needed to “declutter”. Most were formerly developed as manufacturing facilities. However, because of the close proximity to the port, he said that many of the manufacturing facilities of old been revised as warehousing. Most of those now operating in south Durban are freight and logistics companies which need to be close to the harbour.

However, the existing manufacturing properties were not ideal for their present day use. Many were unsuitable for the large trucks operated by the companies in question.

“There is clearly a demand to improve on existing buildings and make them more adaptable to a new use,” Smith said, adding that proposed expansions within the existing port which include new container handling facilities on Salisbury Island, and, ultimately, the construction of the proposed new dig out port on the old airport site would make the Jacobs / Mobeni area in particular, increasingly desirable.