Celebrating women who are steering change in the auto industry

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
Penny Sterley, general manager BMW Motorrad SA.
Penny Sterley, general manager BMW Motorrad SA.
Image: Supplied

Join us as we meet some influential women behind the biggest automotive brands in the country.  

Penny Sterley, general manager BMW Motorrad SA

Background 

I have been in this industry all my life: first in finance and later as head of corporate and government sales for two prominent manufacturers. In 2015 I joined BMW Group SA to oversee corporate, direct and special sales in SA and sub-Sahara Africa. BMW Motorrad captured by my interest in 2020 because, while I had previously been involved in the business of motorcycles, I had never ridden before. I signed up to our Rider Academy to learn and I have had my riding licence for about a year. As a novice rider, I feel I have a fresh perspective to add to the business. I also know how to support new riders keen to join the BMW Motorrad family. It’s been a fantastic journey so far. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

I am responsible for all areas of BMW Motorrad’s local operation, including increasing our market share, growing the bike parc, dealership corporate identity, profitability, new model introductions and collaborating with our brand partners across the country. A big part of my job entails supporting my team and retail partners to ensure they are equipped to delight our customers. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

There have been a few tough months since I started my BMW Motorrad journey, but I believe with all challenges come rewards. In 2020 we became the first country in BMW’s global network to implement a sales model that allows a customer to purchase a motorcycle, trade in a used bike, book test rides and view and purchase demonstrator motorcycles – all online 24/7. In addition to this, we are building a state-of-the-art technical training facility at our Midrand head office. There is much more to come, and the spirit and passion shown by our customers is the most exciting thing I have ever experienced. It’s an exceptional motivator!.

In what areas can the local motor industry improve?

 The automotive industry is ever-changing and it is critical we focus on training and enhancing local skills. Our skill requirements were revolutionised during the implementation of our new retail sales model in 2020, for example, and we need to remain agile to ensure we are ready for change.   

Fhumulani Mothale, brand manager Audi SA.
Fhumulani Mothale, brand manager Audi SA.
Image: Supplied

Fhumulani Mothale, brand manager Audi SA 

Background 

I grew up in a tight-knit, loving family that did not always have everything but we made do and through the guidance of my mother and grandmother, I realised at an early age that education was going to be my gateway to a better life. The journey has not been easy, but through hard work and dedication, I obtained a full scholarship to study my BBusiSci Economics and Marketing from Monash University after successfully completing matric. My academic path continued and I completed my postgraduate diploma in marketing management and BPhil Hons in marketing management from IMM Graduate School of Marketing. I have now embarked on an international qualification  as an MBA candidate at University of Liverpool, with the hopes this will not only give me the tools to further my self-improvement journey but will also broaden my thinking to be more global and dynamic. I have had a fortunate career thus far in building well-loved brands in SA within the premium financial services and automotive industries. This has made a significant impact in shaping me into a well-rounded and astute marketing professional.          

Talk us through a day in your role 

I deal with developing and implementing marketing communication activities to improve Audi’s brand awareness, image and likeability in the local market. This entails advertising and campaign management and marketing plan execution for our new vehicles as well as the after sales and pre-owned business areas. My role ensures there is a consistent Audi brand voice through all of our marketing initiatives from a creative, media, digital, social, campaign and CRM perspective so we support Audi’s global product and brand positioning plans in SA. My days generally consist of meetings with internal stakeholders, managing and controlling the Audi marketing budget and the management and co-ordination of agency partners to optimise marketing communication opportunities. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

One of my favourite benefits is the ability to change my Audi company car every nine months, allowing me to authentically appreciate the progressive premium mobility that defines our brand. From a professional point of view, it is rewarding to see a 360˚  campaign come alive across the marketing channels and connecting in a positive way with our consumers. The global pandemic has posed many challenges to my job. I have to navigate this to ensure marketing spend is spent without wastage and  my advertising campaigns ultimately translate into sales. We are constantly fighting for a share of wallet from our consumers and being the first point of consideration in an already challenged premium automotive market. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

I believe it can improve by tackling gender disparity head on and leading the fight to promote more female leaders within the automotive industry. I would also like to see South African motor manufacturing at the forefront of sustainable mobility. It would be lovely to see a locally manufactured electric vehicle in our country. 

Nirvana Sivalingam, head of procurement Bridgestone Southern Africa.
Nirvana Sivalingam, head of procurement Bridgestone Southern Africa.
Image: Supplied

Nirvana Sivalingam, head of procurement Bridgestone Southern Africa 

Background 

At the beginning of my career, I was a teacher and made a career shift into the corporate world after seven years in education. Over my 20-year career in the private sector, I’ve been fortunate to work in the very diverse and challenging field of procurement for some of SAs biggest industrial companies, including BHP Billiton, Exxaro, Transnet, Schneider Electric and Weir Minerals before joining Bridgestone in May 2020 in my current role. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

In my early career, I spent a lot of time directly managing areas within the procurement space, including material requirement planning (MRP), vendor management and purchasing. Later, after working to earn qualifications in procurement and leadership management, I completed a certification in total quality management, a business management degree and my MCIPS, I have worked as a buyer and a contract specialist, where I spent most of my time on tenders, contracts and project planning and support. Now a lot of my day is spent in strategic meetings. As a manager overlooking different areas, I have responsibilities and need to sit in project meetings, team meetings and supplier meetings. Despite this, I’ve made time almost every day to sit with my team, especially when they were based at home. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

My biggest challenge over the past year has been to get to know a completely new sector, the tyre industry. However, I see this as a good challenge that allows me to contribute my diverse background and thinking to the growth of a leading manufacturer. Throughout my career, as a woman, I’ve had to fight a lot more than my male counterparts for acceptance. However, by focusing strictly on performance, I’ve shown I am just as capable to do the job, and even deliver at a higher level. At this stage in my career, it is deeply rewarding to help break down barriers for women in technical fields, especially young graduates who might be unsure about entering the industry. Through our Bridgestone Women’s Forum and Lean-In Circles, we have an amazing opportunity to develop successful future generations of young women in the exciting field of mobility. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

In all industries I worked in, one of the key areas any organisation can benefit from is enhancing relationships. While performance delivery should always be held to the highest standard, connecting with people must never be overlooked. Bridgestone has come a long way in breaking down a lot of barriers, not just in terms of gender and racial transformation, but in terms of offering people at all levels the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Sumaiya Suleman, customer resolution centre manager for Middle East and Africa Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.
Sumaiya Suleman, customer resolution centre manager for Middle East and Africa Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.
Image: Supplied

Sumaiya Suleman, customer resolution centre manager for Middle East and Africa Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa 

Background 

I am the second of three siblings and grew up in Pietermaritzburg, where I completed my LLB degree. I am married with one child. My daughter of 10 years old. My family means everything to me, and they are my motivation. I have been in the legal industry for 16 years and customer services has been my home for the past five years. I have an appreciation for the finer things in life and am a wanderlust at heart.

Talk us through a day in your role 

My role is multi-faceted and I spend a lot of my time engaging my team regarding customer cases. Ensuring regulator complaints, particularly that of the Motor Industry Ombudsman, are responded to timeously is also part of my scope of work. There is also a fair amount of background administration required to keep the CRC operational and that is also an aspect I devote time to. Part of my role also encompasses oversight of the Middle East customer queries and Roadside Assistance for the Middle East and SA regions. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

No two days or customer cases are the same and that can be challenging at times. The converse to that is the personal reward. For me, it’s the small wins – a compliment from a customer or a satisfied customer back on the road with his/her vehicle. Knowing you contributed to that makes it all worthwhile.

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

Diversity in teams leading customer experience is a must. This allows us to better empathise with our customers. The motor industry will also benefit greatly by creating opportunities for women as this can be an untapped but valuable resource. Ford Motor Company has a graduate programme to attract young professionals and it would be great to see the young women of today carry the industry further into the future.  

Princess Ndlhovu, head of fleet and business Haval Motor SA.
Princess Ndlhovu, head of fleet and business Haval Motor SA.
Image: Supplied

Princess Ndlhovu, head of fleet and business Haval Motor SA 

Background 

I am a number cruncher by qualification but a solutionist at heart. My obsession with customer service has been highly influenced by the servant leadership and customer centricity philosophies. In fleet business as well as in B2B direct selling, our strategy is always centered around our clients. This engagement and challenge is what I thrive on. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

I see my role as my ministry. I live eat breath sleep my role. As a result, I find myself failing dismally to stick to my to-do list which I draw the night before. The outcome of our department’s daily action meetings define mostly which items get replaced on my list so as much as planning and proactivity are my game plan, thinking on my feet and reacting correctly are the order of the day. Client open topics take preference to mostly everything. Client meetings keep me busy. The continuous drive to build partnership within and outside of the business is what fills most days, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

My challenges are far outweighed by the rewards. Business development is my passion and knowing I have resolved or placed the optimal solution to my current or potential client makes it all worthwhile. The biggest challenges arise when engaging with individuals who do not take kindly to questions about their operations or objectives or their KPIs, forgetting how critical this information is to our problem-solving capabilities and recommendation journey to meet their requirements. Once we establish a middle ground, trust is cemented and that usually becomes the foundation of long-lasting business relationships, which is the greatest reward for our business and me as an individual. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

In my humble opinion, transformation in the boardrooms — we need more women who are passionate about our industry to take up more spaces.  SA has a diverse mix of women who are fully capable to lead and add their valuable insights to shape our industry to greater heights. I believe this transformation drive can be fast tracked.

Adele Bosch, sales area manager Honda Motor Southern Africa.
Adele Bosch, sales area manager Honda Motor Southern Africa.
Image: Supplied

Adele Bosch, sales area manager Honda Motor Southern Africa 

Background 

I started my career in the motor industry in 1999 when I joined Daewoo as a personal assistant to the managing director. In 2003, Chevrolet announced its return to SA as part of the Delta Motor Corporation. I was one of six Daewoo employees who transferred to oversee the transition and integration of existing Daewoo customers into the new Chevrolet organisation. I started my journey in customer relations, first as a call centre agent, and ended up as the call centre supervisor. In 2012 I received the GMSA Presidential Award for “providing excellent customer service to GMSA’s Customers”, which was a highlight in my career. In 2014, I transferred from customer relations to a new position as a district sales manager. In 2017 General Motors SA (GM) announced its withdrawal from the country and subsequently my journey ended with GM after 14 years with the company. I was fortunate to find immediate employment with Honda SA, again as a sales area manager, accountable for the sales performance of 12 dealers based in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. This year I was nominated as a candidate for Nedbank’s Motor Woman of The Year Award (MWOTY) for the Excellence Award, which is another highlight in my career. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

I start my day by logging onto my laptop at 7am every day to address/assist with any e-mails in my inbox. This is a high priority for me and I will respond via e-mail or phone calls to any inbound e-mail inquiry.  I plan and address any administrative tasks that need to be done in between dealer visits and meetings.  I am accountable for the sales performance of 12 dealers and track their performance daily and ensure the necessary people, plans and processes are in place to achieve the set targets. Dealer visits entail  correct stocking levels to achieve sales objectives, dealer ageing stock management, ensure dealer has adequate sales training to support objectives, serve as the contact with dealer principals and dealership staff and ensure all concerned are fully up to date with regards to company requirements, ensure franchise standards are maintained, marketing and promotion of product at dealer level, monitor customer satisfaction scores and create focus where necessary, quality of customer handling and sales process, and so on. After conducting structure dealer visits I provide the dealership with a full report on the conclusions and recommendations.  

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

General challenges of the job include ensuring satisfaction between all important stakeholders whether it be the client, the dealer network or the company. It’s vital to me that all parties are valued and their role towards the success of the business is recognised and protected. This is also the most rewarding part of the job as my job allows me to liaise between the company and my dealers, ensuring our goals align towards a common goal of customer satisfaction. More recent challenges include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on business operations, resulting in stock shortages and financial losses. In what areas can the local motor industry improve? My honest opinion is the local motor industry has done everything it can to adapt to the challenges presented during the past two years. Macro-economic conditions have had a severe impact on businesses and to the biggest extent they are unpredictable and extremely volatile. Perhaps better projections and being proactive can alleviate the impact of the before mentioned and can reduce the severity and the impact thereof.  

Pertunia Sibanyoni, CEO InspectaCar and chairperson FASA.
Pertunia Sibanyoni, CEO InspectaCar and chairperson FASA.
Image: Supplied

Pertunia Sibanyoni, CEO InspectaCar and FASA chairperson 

Background

I hail from a township in Witbank, Mpumalanga. Born to the late Reuben Sibanyoni, a mechanic and transport business owner, and domestic worker turned businesswoman, Meidjie Sibanyoni. Proud mother of my only son, 10-year-old Akhumzi, popularly known as “AK”, who has been a mini pillar of strength. He inspired me to take up Latin American dancing professionally. AK has been successful in many provincial, national and international hip-hop competitions. As a young girl, I always had eager approach to succeed. I always did things outside the norm, and being daddy’s little girl afforded me the opportunity to be much bolder and have the drive to follow my dreams. This was driven by the very strong bond I had with my late father as he did not just teach me but led by example to impart strong values. A few I can think of are respect, wisdom, humility against all odds, integrity before profits and be yourself. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

Since the beginning of the lockdown regulations, my day starts with dropping off my son at school every alternate day. Then its yoga or exercise to kick start my day with an energised mental state. Depending on the time of fiscal year, it involves attending board and exco meetings, dealership visits/online meetings, mentoring sessions and having visible leadership, be it in the franchising or automotive industry with the networks I belong to. I like ending the day with a bubble bath or a good book or Netball WesBank league match once a week. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

Being in the automotive industry I get to live my passion daily. The start of lockdown came with a lot of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. I needed to make decisions very quickly with limited information and gut feel, inspiring our dealerships to accelerate and adopt a change in business model to a digital platform. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

It is very easy to acknowledge diversity. Our challenge is inclusion to create an environment that allows equal participation of women without the stereotypes of having to work twice as hard as your male counterparts to be taken seriously.

Mandlakazi Sigcawu, executive corporate and public affairs Isuzu Motors SA.
Mandlakazi Sigcawu, executive corporate and public affairs Isuzu Motors SA.
Image: Supplied

Mandlakazi Sigcawu, executive corporate and public affairs Isuzu Motors SA

Background 

My career began as a production assistant for an international marketing and broadcast agency. It was a great experience being part of the production crew that produced some of the most popular sport and lifestyle programmes like Gunston 500 and the JB Met. My next role was in publishing as a copy coordinator at Media24, where I had the pleasure of producing the You magazine. I returned to broadcast journalism to be part of the team that launched the first free-to-air channel in SA, e.tv. After stints with SABC and CNBC Africa, I became an entrepreneur and ran a boutique PR agency specialising in reputation management and bespoke events. I subsequently joined local government, national legislature, prior to joining the corporate sector. I was head of communication and transformation for Southern Africa markets at British American Tobacco prior to joining Isuzu Motors SA. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

This is a difficult question as no two days are the same. Generally speaking, I spend my days leading the corporate and public affairs team by ensuring the department is a space for creativity, high performance and delivery. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

The challenges and rewards of the job include identifying possible solutions that contribute to the organisation’s bottom line. With the right strategies and campaigns, we are there to ensure both our internal and external partners realise their ROI. I find a thrill in the success of reaching intended objectives. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve?

I’d prefer to answer this with what we can continue doing, rather than where we can improve. Local manufacturers such as Isuzu are significant contributors to our GDP and are critical to the future industrial and economic landscape of our country. We need to continue to support the communities in which we operate and provide solid foundations on which to build employment opportunities for thousands of people. Isuzu Motors SA strongly believes in uplifting communities and we feel our efforts are positively impacting the Gqeberha area and SA as a whole.

Kim Pilaelo, digital marketing specialist, Jaguar Land Rover SA and Sub-Sahara Africa.
Kim Pilaelo, digital marketing specialist, Jaguar Land Rover SA and Sub-Sahara Africa. 
Image: Supplied

Kim Pilaelo, digital marketing specialist, Jaguar Land Rover SA and Sub-Sahara Africa 

Background 

My career path has followed a winding journey from marketing assistant to admin and executive roles. Both of my parents passed away when I was a child so I learnt from a young age how to open doors, change perceptions and speak up for myself. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

There is no average day for me, but as with many corporate positions my day starts with managing my e-mail inbox and planning meetings — mostly virtual, of course. Communication is key when you’re working with a large team and especially so while we’re all working remotely. I generally spend a good portion of my day reviewing statistics from the previous day. This means checking website views, scouring analytics and checking social media views and impressions. I’m a big fan of discovering new trends in the digital space. Digital media can be science, and it can be voodoo. It’s impossible to stop learning about it and I thoroughly enjoy the process. It’s also important for me to dedicate time to creativity. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

As they say, time is money but there never seems to be enough of either. That said, I find it especially rewarding when things come together despite the challenges. We spend a lot of time in planning phases and it feels great to see all the hard work unfold into an impactful end result. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

The SA motor industry needs to get more serious about embracing alternative energy sources. Electrification is booming in the markets we rely on for import and export, so the sooner we get on board with global trends the better poised we will be for the inevitable shift. We do not have the luxury of taking a wait-and-see approach. Yes, there are some hurdles to overcome but these are temporary.

Ayanda Joja, business development manager Kia
Ayanda Joja, business development manager Kia 
Image: Supplied

Ayanda Joja, business development manager Kia 

Background 

I was born and bred in the east of Johannesburg. Academically, I completed a higher certificate in business management and am completing my BCom General degree through Regent Business School. Next for me is a post graduate degree in business administration. My career in the automotive industry started in 2011 as a customer satisfaction Index agent at Liquid Capital. I joined Kia SA in 2015. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

I am in sales and the pressure is always on. My key function is to drive dealer development and make sure expected sales targets are met to grow our market share and become major players in our industry. My day involves analysing daily activity and performance and coming up with unique solutions in line with our business policies to assist our dealer partners. This involves daily interaction with our dealer partners and offering support to ensure they are equipped to perform at an optimal level. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

Being a female in a male-dominated industry can be very challenging. You have to work harder to prove your capabilities. I am very fortunate to work for a company that believes in empowering women. The support Kia SA has offered me over the years has made my career path so much easier. I get to drive and experience the authenticity of the brand I work for. I have the opportunity to test drive new products before they go into the market. However, the most rewarding part of my job is having a direct impact on the growth and success of the business. Knowing my knowledge and expertise have contributed to our brand that keeps exceeding expectations brings great satisfaction. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

Creating awareness around the opportunities within the motor industry, especially for women. Reintroducing the industry to society and killing the stereotype that the motor industry is a male industry. We need more women in the workshops and filling mechanical roles and technical roles. That would be a real game changer. 

Claudia Walters, head of marketing and communication Mazda Southern Africa.
Claudia Walters, head of marketing and communication Mazda Southern Africa.
Image: Supplied

Claudia Walters, head of marketing and communication Mazda Southern Africa 

Background

Local and international experience of over 20 years in the fields of marketing, including brand building and repositioning, consumer engagement, digital, sponsorships, events and so on. My key interests are to elevate brands beyond the media clutter through innovative approaches and the integration between sales and communication. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

Every day is different, however most days a start with an hour or so on e-mails, then moving on to reviewing ongoing campaign work. Regular meetings with my team ensure we can keep track of all work items. Project work is what interests me the most: keeping our website in tune with consumer insights, ensuring we can position new product in the right context versus competitors, understanding new trends from market reviews, setting up our infrastructure in line with these trends  and regulatory requirements, or shared projects with our international colleagues. Some days are different: when we are out filming, reviewing new product, or looking at opportunities with our dealer partners. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

Keeping pace with the continuous changes in consumer behaviour, the changes in digital platforms, and the acceleration of the change we have seen in the last years are certainly demanding to manage. We have to optimise channels and remain adaptable at the same time. This situation is demanding on the team members, and collaboration internally and externally is a key factor. We get our rewards in many ways: sometimes a simple post from a consumer, a dealer partner with positive feedback, or a campaign that topped all KPIs. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve?  

Market conditions change constantly and to keep pace with the speed of these changes is always a challenge. I believe much can still be done to leverage human insight to provide a better overall experience to consumers. Collaboration between dealer partners and OEMs and importers will be key, and a sometimes more pragmatic approach could drive better results for all. 

Zimkita Tokwe, bodyshop trainee production manager at Mercedes-Benz SA East London plant.
Zimkita Tokwe, bodyshop trainee production manager at Mercedes-Benz SA East London plant.
Image: Supplied

Zimkita Tokwe, body shop trainee production manager at Mercedes-Benz SA East London Plant 

Background 

I am a B-Tech Mechanical Engineering graduate from Walter Sisulu University of Technology. My career at Mercedes-Benz SA started in 2011 as a shop floor assembler. Ten years later, I’ve held several roles which include development cell technician, maintenance engineer and production engineer. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

My day always starts with a cross function team meeting to align on startup issues, topics that affected production the previous day, problem solve, identify risks, mitigations and plan for the day. Being a body shop trainee production manager, I manage production teams to achieve key company KPIs, such as safety, quality, delivery, cost and morale targets in compliance to the company's integrity and anti-bribery codes, conflict of interest policy and safety, health and environment duties. I am also responsible to drive and support innovation  to ensure the plant achieves its goals and the bigger picture. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

This is my 1oth year working for this iconic brand, but each day feels as if it is my first year. Each day I look forward to an interesting, challenging day, especially being in a production environment where each day differs from the next. I am intrigued by the innovations and changing systems that are introduced to improve the way we as employees work, making our processes better, ensuring we send out good quality and nothing but the best out of Africa to the world. It is such a privilege to be associated with an iconic brand that is a leader of its class in the world. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

There are more women employed by the local motor industry as it was predominantly male-dominated. But the industry needs to improve on leadership. I would be content and  feel a sense of belonging when I see more women in leadership positions. Making their voices and ideas heard, being treated as equals. 

Alex Boavida, dealer principal Mercedes-Benz Sandton, member of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) governing structures.
Alex Boavida, dealer principal Mercedes-Benz Sandton, member of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) governing structures.
Image: Supplied

Alex Boavida, dealer principal, Mercedes-Benz Sandton, member of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) governing structures 

Background 

Prior to my entrance to the world of automobiles, I held positions at establishments across several industries including hospitality, business consulting, training, statistical analysis, design, marketing and sales. My 21 years in the working world has seen me spending 95% of my time in management positions. From a very young age I always loved cars, and on my return to SA in March 2013, following an expat experience in Cairo, Egypt, I was not sure what career path to follow. My partner recommended I join the automotive sector due to my love for cars. Initially, I was a little skeptical about joining this industry (from the outside it does not look as rewarding and challenging as it actually is). Nevertheless, I took a leap of faith and today I wouldn’t change it for the world. I began my automotive career as a new vehicle sales executive. After two weeks in the job, I was promoted to new vehicle sales manager Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles at Union Motors in Nelspruit. In 2014, I moved to Johannesburg and joined Sandown Motors, in the same position (new vehicle sales manager) at their branch in Bryanston. In January 2016 I was appointed dealer principal of Mercedes-Benz Bryanston. In October 2018, with the closure of Mercedes-Benz Bryanston ands Mercedes-Benz Sandton, I was appointed dealer principal  Mercedes-Benz Sandton, a position I still hold today. This dealership is the OEM’s flagship store, situated at 92 Rivonia Road, Sandton. It is the biggest Mercedes-Benz dealership on the African continent and the first of its kind in the world. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

A typical day would start by meeting with my immediate line managers for a cup of coffee to catch up on issues and progress thereof, new issues, objectives for the day and numbers, of course. While I would like to say  the rest of the day is spent with my employees in better understanding their challenges and opportunities to improve the overall process and in turn success, and with customers to better understand their experiences with the organisation as well as their comments on improvements, this isn’t the case. We unfortunately live in a very administratively intensive world that consumes most of our day. I do, however, set aside a day a week to walk around and every staff member in the business and engage with clients on the floor as often as I can. I set aside a lot of time to go through the numbers of the business. This is not only from the income statement or balance sheet but rather from the “big data” we collect. Big data and analysis of trends within all facets of the business helps us understand trigger points, levers and risks, ensuring a reactive approach and agility. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

I believe the mandate of a leader is to grow people. It’s probably the biggest imperative, in my opinion. Seeing the seeds we plant turn into trees is by far the most rewarding part of my career. The pst two years have been immensely challenging for all business, and just when you think it’s getting better, it turns again. It has been exceptionally difficult to draw any trend line due to the volatile world we now live in. This coupled with extreme disruptions to the workforce and our respective customer base has really shaken things up.  What is important to remember is that with every challenge comes an opportunity to change, become more agile, think differently, act differently and adapt quickly. I don’t believe challenges will go away. I’s how we react to them that ensures our survival.

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

Employee transformation and diversity throughout all levels of the business, programmes to encourage and focus on employee retention, customer experience and big data.    

Evanie Vather, general manager corporate planning Nissan Africa regional business unit.
Evanie Vather, general manager corporate planning Nissan Africa regional business unit.
Image: Supplied

Evanie Vather, general manager corporate planning Nissan Africa regional business unit 

Background

My dream was to become a chartered accountant  so I graduated with a Bachelor of Accounting Degree. This was short-lived because once I joined corporate, I discovered my passion for business management, strategy and operations. My career in the automotive industry spans just over 21 years, with 16 years at Nissan. In this time, I have had the opportunity to learn and gain experience in different functions, from after sales business management, financial reporting, business planning, export operations to regional sales and  operations and retail sales strategy. These roles have equipped me for my role as general manager corporate planning, which entails developing and having oversight on holistic business operations. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

The major focus of my role is on strategic future projects. However, my normal working day starts with people topics. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting challenges, I attend management meetings to track our organisation’s risk matrix, infection containment measures and internal vaccination drive. Thereafter, I participate in meetings with local, regional and sometimes global management on different topics. I also participate in cross-functional teams working on key business strategic deliverables. I have the privilege to work with a diversified team as the Africa regional business unit has the market responsibility for Egypt, SA and Sub-Saharan Africa markets, having two headquarters, one in Pretoria, and the other in Cairo, Egypt. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

The greatest part of my job is driving delivery on strategic actions for Nissan to capitalise on Africa’s growth potential. The challenge is to convince global stakeholders about Africa’s growth potential, despite the absence of defined automotive policies and market volatility influenced by socio-economic factors in some key markets. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

We are undergoing significant changes like digital transformation, which has accelerated because of the pandemic, fast-tracking of electric vehicle/alternative technology adoption to reduce emissions and the quest to reduce vehicle fatalities by enhancing active and passive safety technologies. With these global trends, Africa’s motor industry needs to ensure the sustainability of its local production facilities while growing its export footprint, critical in supporting the creation of jobs in local markets.

Sithabile Maphumulo, vice president marketing Renault SA.
Sithabile Maphumulo, vice president marketing Renault SA.
Image: Supplied

Sithabile Maphumulo, vice president marketing  Renault SA

Background 

Having graduated from the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) with a diploma in Marketing Management in 2005 and with more than 15 years’ experience in the advertising, communications and marketing fields working on brands ranging from selling chicken at KFC to selling cars at Renault, I have influenced the thinking and brand strategies behind some of the biggest multinational brands locally across Africa. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

The day begins with some focus time to get my e-mails, briefs, budgets, strategy and any urgencies out of the way.  Depending on the time of the month or year most of my time is spent in meetings, planning for campaigns, launches or aligning with French colleagues. As an importer we spend time planning and prepping for upcoming activity with the team based in France. I have a compliment of eight  people in my team. I set up times to catch up with them and  check on project status. We sometimes analyse daily KPIs  to improve performance and correct where required. With Covid-19 the water cooler touch base and conversations have been replaced with lunches at my desk or having Zoom tea catch ups. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

Time is a big challenge. Online meetings have made it difficult to plan productive work days as they may sometimes run into each other with no breaks and you can find yourself in four-hour meeting blocks. I try to manage this by setting focus time and “rest” in 30 minute sessions throughout my diary. When we strike a balance between a great product, attractive pricing, a consumer insight-led campaign to sell the product while  building the brand and then seeing the sales being realised, this is the highest form of reward for me. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

The industry has made many great milestones to ensure representation, diversity and inclusion are being addressed. This is a journey the industry needs to stay on course with.

Amohelang Ledwaba, senior manager sponsporships and promotions Toyota SA Motors.
Amohelang Ledwaba, senior manager sponsporships and promotions Toyota SA Motors.
Image: Supplied

Amohelang Ledwaba, senior manager sponsporships and promotions  Toyota SA Motors  

Background 

I have always had a passion for cars and started in the motoring industry as a graduate trainee in 2011. Being a graduate trainee proved to be invaluable as it gave me an opportunity to rotate within departments on the sales and marketing side of the business. Having completed the rotation, I was placed in product planning and that’s where I learnt most of what I know today about the industry. It threw me into a position where I could directly influence the product that gets introduced to the SA market and offered me the opportunity to interact with a wide range of stakeholders while getting a feel for what each of these departments do. The learning curve was exponential, the days were long and the work was hard but I would not trade the experience for anything. And after a long stint in product planning I moved to the sponsorship and promotion side of the business, which also sits within our marketing division. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

It may sound very cliché but no two days are the same in this role. However, a typical day centres around looking at our current sponsorship properties and looking for future opportunities and ensuring they are aligned to our corporate strategy and Toyota’s vision for the future. One of the big drives on our side has been the move towards carbon neutrality so we’ve had to relook at our properties and look for opportunities to align to this strategy by, for example, upping the number of hybrid vehicles we include as part of our strategies because not only is this good and aligned for the business, this is also the right thing to do for future generations.

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

The Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted marketing strategy into a space where we have had to move a lot of activity onto digital platforms, which initially was quite challenging but at the same time has been quite rewarding as we’ve managed to find these opportunities that dovetail well with our corporate strategy. One such rewarding moment has been the launch of The Toyota Gaming Engine which allows us to be a key player in the world of esports. Seeing this site come to life has probably been one of my and my team’s biggest achievements and we continue the work t needed to make this a success. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

The industry needs to be more intentional about its contribution to the environment, the economy and future generations, and this is not something the industry can champion on its own. Government must also come to the party and look at how it can support sustainability efforts across the spectrum, from creating an environment conducive to manufacturing which will help the economy through job creation to subsidising the production and sale of environmentally friendly vehicles.

Tasneem Lorgat, senior manager advertising and digital marketing Toyota SA Motors.
Tasneem Lorgat, senior manager advertising and digital marketing Toyota SA Motors.
Image: Suppied

Tasneem Lorgat, senior manager advertising and digital marketing  Toyota SA Motors 

Background 

The year 2021 marks 12 years of involvement in all things automotive-marketing related for me. I started  at Toyota SA in 2009 as a fresh graduate of the Toyota Graduate Programme, and since completing the trainee programme, I’ve had the opportunity to experience different roles within Toyota’s marketing division. In 2014, I was fortunate to be selected as one of 150 Africans for the ABE Initiative to do a  Masters Degree in Japan. I completed a Global MBA with a focus on Japanese business practices, and gained internship experience at the Toyota Global Headquarters in Tokyo — a lifechanging and memorable experience. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

An exciting yet daunting aspect of this role is that no two days are identical. In general, I spend a large part of the day collaborating with my peers and our agency partners to create value-adding campaigns in support of strategic brands. The Toyota stable includes the Toyota, Lexus, Automark, and Toyota Gazoo Razing brands. A typical day in the office  includes multiple meetings and discussions with cross-functional business units and agencies and consultations with our exco members to solve complex business problems efficiently. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

With the fast-moving pace of the digital landscape, we’re challenged to constantly innovate in the way campaigns are executed. Also, in true Toyota spirit, we are continuously seeking improvement (Kaizen) through constant campaign optimisation. We also need to be extremely attentive when creating content as we reach a very wide and diverse audience. For me, it’s important Toyota is a representative South African brand. Personally, I’d say the most rewarding part of this job is having the opportunity to create campaigns that make a meaningful change to society, for example the recent Lexus spekboom initiative, our global Olympics and mobility movement, and the giant Corolla beaded billboard that was hand beaded in rural KwaZulu-Natal. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

Two things I am passionate about are the environment and people empowerment, and therefore I'd say we can improve collectively by collaborating to increase the adoption of alternative energy powered vehicles in SA and making more growth and learning opportunities for artisans, graduates and young engineers — especially females in the sector — to increase their skills and become our future leaders. 

Loryn Symons, brand manager Volkswagen of SA.
Loryn Symons, brand manager Volkswagen of SA.
Image: Supplied

Loryn Symons, brand manager Volkswagen of SA

Background 

A Gqeberha girl, I grew up on Volkswagen’s doorstep. I joined the organisation as a graduate trainee in 2009 after completing my studies in marketing and business management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Based in Kariega, I started  in the marketing research department before moving to Johannesburg in 2012 to join the Volkswagen commercial vehicles marketing team. I moved to the Volkswagen passenger vehicles team in the same capacity in 2017 and was promoted to my current role, as brand manager, shortly thereafter. 

Talk us through a day in your role 

I have the privilege of being a custodian of one of Mzansi’s best loved brands. My role revolves around the strategic positioning of Volkswagen and its sub-brands. Using consumer insights to develop communication that is not only relatable to our market but also showcases our fantastic vehicles and services is key. We have incredible agency partners and my team and I work closely with them to roll out campaigns. 

Challenges and rewards of the job? 

As a marketing team  we are always trying to work as efficiently and effectively as possible while still delivering excellent campaigns and business results. The Covid-19 pandemic took this to a new level in 2020 and its impact has been felt this year too. It was a real challenge to adapt so quickly and find new ways of working with smaller budgets. In addition, the loss of face-to-face interactions has been tough, even for a self-proclaimed introvert. I r enjoy collaborating with our agencies, from creative and media to PR. Working together to bring our brand campaigns to life is my favourite part of the job. SA is a unique and diverse market; rich in culture and creativity and always ready to laugh. The fact that most of our content is created locally makes my job incredibly rewarding. Developing campaigns and content that resonates with South Africans is what I find truly satisfying. 

In what areas can the local motor industry improve? 

Globally, the move to electric vehicles and emission-free mobility solutions is progressing very quickly. As a country, we are behind the curve. I would like to see greater collaboration between the OEMs and the government to expedite a move to green energy and  make electric vehicles an accessible and viable option for South African consumers.

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