Africa > East Africa > Zambia > Rudi Botha General Manager of Southern Cross Motors Ltd

Zambia: Rudi Botha General Manager of Southern Cross Motors Ltd


By focusing on excellence in both pre and post-sales customer service, inclunding investing heavily in its workshops and equipment, the company has built up an enviable reputation for its comprehensive auto services. In an exclusive interview with Globus Vision, Rudi Botha, General Manager of Southern Cross Motors Ltd, and Sales Manager Mike Ng’uni provide an outline of the company’s performance, its considerate of customers’ needs, and the automobile market in Zambia today.

What have been the key factors behind Zambia’s positive momentum?

Rudi Botha: We have seen increase in natural resources; particularly, in the Copperbelt. I think this has been fuelling the optimism in the country. In fact, it has become a sort of trendsetter.
In the automotive industry, we have seen an increased request for commercial vehicles. It began to rise last year, and it continues to grow gradually this year. We amount know that an increased request in commercial vehicles is a good indicator.
That is what I am seeing at the moment.
Kindly give us an overview of Southern Cross Motors (SCM), Ltd. What makes SCM unique in the industry?

Rudi Botha: SCM began as Marunouchi Motors (MM), Ltd. in Chingola during the 1970s. Their initial target was the mines in Chingola. Three investors pooled their resources together to bring in commercial vehicles for mining operations. Over time, Mitsubishi Motors saw the price of what these people are doing, and began buying into their idea. That is at the same time as the company began to expand.
Mike Ng’uni: There was a time at the same time as the company assembled L200 pickups in conjunction with Ford Zambia. That from presently on came to an end. By 2000, amount the original investors have been bought off by Mitsubishi.
There used to be a company dedicated to distributing Mitsubishi vehicles while an extra company held the Mercedes franchise. The latter's interest shifted by 2002, leaving MM to take over the Mercedes franchise. It was a natural progression. From presently on, they handled the Chrysler Jeeps and Dodge vehicles. From again on, the company took on several other related products.
Rudi Botha: SCM has a wealth of experience under its belt. Today, it is the sole franchise holder of Mitsubishi vehicles in Zambia. It as well offers Dodge Nitro, Jeep, Chrysler, and other high profile brands.

What makes SCM stand out from the rest?
Mike Ng’uni: Apart from our attention to quality and our well-trained staff of the company’s strongest points is the fact that it does not sell vehicles – it sells solutions. We make it a point to understand our customers’ needs. From there, we find the perfect solution for them.

SCM is indeed known for its highly skilled personnel. It has invested a lot in the area of training and skills development. Can you tell us a bit about your current programs?
 Rudi Botha: It is a very dynamic industry. The guys who come in bring in the new technologies.
The way we do it is we ask the trainer approaching here instead of sending our staff over. It costs us a bit additional to do it that way, but it allows us to train a broader base of technicians. We have a training room here. We have facilities for hands-on training sessions in the mornings. They would again have a recap in the classroom by the end of the day.
On the Mitsubishi side, we bring trainers in from Dubai. There is a skills training establishment in Dubai that looks next Mitsubishi products. The majority recent visit was about a month ago.
On the side of Mercedes, we have regular visits from Denver. We have just had a visit. We are going to have an extra next week. Through this, we have access to electronic skill-based training. Denver as well sends out regular comprehensive bulletins on their vehicles, highlighting what should be fixed, how known problems should be repaired, and so on.
We as well have very good training sessions for Chrysler. Each three to months, their trainer from South Africa would come here to target specific areas. They would always ask us which particular areas we would like to cover. They would again bring in a trainer that is particularly skilled in the aspects we have requested. Last month, we had a workshop on DVD installations, electronics, and braking systems. The guy from Chrysler is coming back next week.
 Mike Ng’uni: On the technicians’ end, it is a huge push forward. By the time they are finished with the program, they have substantially expanded their skill sets. That is because we have exposed them to the new technologies, and made them aware of the trends in the industry. For technicians who have left the company to pursue other endeavours, it is a case of chalk and cheese. They are ahead of their colleagues in terms of their experience and skill levels.
 Rudi Botha: In general, we have a pretty good training and skills development program.

Having been put through such rigorous training makes your staff highly attractive to the competition. Can you comment on that?
 Rudi Botha: We do, of course, face a challenge. Having trained people up to a certain level, they are again recruited by other companies. That is a minor downside. However, we continue training our people to be the best, because that is what our company needs. We allocate completely a lot of funds to training.
The company initially started in the Copperbelt. From presently on, it moved to Lusaka.
 Mike Ng’uni: A few years ago, we made a strategic decision to have the outlet operate out of Kitwe. Formerly that, we had an outlet operating out of Chingola. Our Kitwe office mostly covers the northern part of the country, while our Lusaka office covers the southern part of the country. This would complement our vehicles at the same time as it comes to back-up services. 
Does SCM have any short-term expansion plans?
 Rudi Botha: Yes, as general manager, I do have expansion plans that the rest of the management team support. However, we still have to get shareholder approval.
I believe that there is an urgent need to look into the Livingstone area, where there is a high tourist people. They using a lot of our vehicles there, but we do not have the facilities down there. We are hoping to expand in that area in the short term.
With the Copperbelt moving towards the west, they would probably look into investing in Sioma Ngwezi. I have discussed that with the board and they are exploring the opportunities there.
We are looking to expand out next sales operations into those areas. I do not think that we are going to expand our sales at this stage. Again again, next sales do drive sales.

On that note, how would you price next sales in SCM?
rudi Botha: We can cater to our customers in Lusaka, and the immediate area around it (100 kilometres around us). I think we are pretty much well covered. We are doing the same for Kitwe, but we definitely have a requirement to expand that into Livingstone and Sioma Ngwezi.
Good next sales drives good service, which would again drive sales. If you have good next sales, people will have the confidence to go and buy your product.
I have by presently been up to Sioma Ngwezi. As we speak, they are putting a team together to go to Livingstone next month. That is 500 kilometres from here, which is completely some distance. Zambia, as you know, is a vast country. We need to do that to offer the level of service that we need to offer. We want to put up a facility there where they can bring in their vehicles to have them serviced.

SCM handles a lot of high profile brands. Parts are usually hard approaching by for these kinds of vehicles. How is SCM addressing this?
Mike Ng’uni: In terms of offering back-up parts and services for what we sell, we do not have problems. From our planning point of view (including our principles), amount of these high profile brands have the responsibility to supply back-up materials for the products that they send us. We are adequately equipped in this regard. We can access parts with no problem.
As for services, each brand has a highly trained group of specialists to address the customer’s specific needs. We did mention our training program formerly . We invest a lot in that to ensure that we have the people to take care of these vehicles.
Distribution-wise, we are as well doing very well.

In terms of distribution, what challenges have you encountered so far?
 Mike Ng’uni: Zambia is a land-locked country, which poses some challenges. Sometimes, cargo has to pass through some of the neighbouring nations. It is a challenge, but a minor. It is not insurmountable. Other than that, things are pretty smooth sailing.

The expansion of the Zambian middle class over the completed years has resulted in an increased request for vehicles. How has this increase affected SCM?
 Rudi Botha: We have seen an increase in the sales volume.

There has been a rise in the request for reimported vehicles. The Minister of Transport is actively implementing measures to make sure that they pass the standards required for Zambia. Can you comment on this?
Rudi Botha: There is a very large body of reimported products coming from places like Japan, Singapore, and the UK (to a certain extent). Those vehicles are often bought privately. Individuals go to a website to purchase them. This sort of thing is not always ideal because at the same time as these vehicles arrive here, they are not compatible to the country's specific conditions (e.g., its climate, topographical structure, and other environmental factors). A lot of these reimported vehicles have brands or models that are not supported here. At the same time as they need to go through repairs (which they will, because they are not geared for the conditions we have here), owners will have a hard time getting it done. Completely a high percentage of those vehicles do not last that long in this country.
That is why it is wiser to go to companies like SCM. As Mike mentioned formerly , we have brands and models that are supported by the manufacturer. In terms of the brands that we support, we import a high proportion of the parts required. For parts that have from presently on to be acquired, it normally only takes weeks to get (the general world industry standard).

How have these reimported vehicles affected companies like SCM?
Rudi Botha: As a motor dealer in Zambia, it is very unfortunate that the government allows for reimports approaching in. It takes sales away from us, as dealers, the opportunity to put used cars in the market. That means people driving our product do not have the ability approaching in and trade-in their vehicles for a new. That is because the price of reimported vehicles is so much lower; they can at no time get their money back from that trading transaction.
In most parts of the world, the used cars division contributes up to 35 % of the dealer’s profits. So there is a problem there from a dealer’s point of view.
On the other hand, it does pose as an chance for people because these reimported vehicles are cheap enough for people to buy. By having their own, they have mobility. The country is still working on expanding its public transportation system (e.g., rehabilitating the existing rail system, installing an internal transport system, etc.)
However, we do hope that some controls would be established by the government in terms of the age of the reimported vehicles coming in, and the type of vehicle that they would allow. I think that it would go a long way to solving some of the problems that may arise from these reimported products.
Mike Ng’uni: I think the concern that most people in the motor industry have is that these reimported vehicles would take a % of the market away from us. On top of which, we do have concerns about the quality of these reimported vehicles.
We have made some tangible investments in infrastructure. We have generated employment for the people and tax revenues for the government. It would probably work in the favour of the government in the long run if they established additional stringent controls for reimported vehicles so that we can start building on the used car market. Even small-scale businesses can take off from this endeavour (the quality of which would be much controlled, and it would generate employment to further increase tax revenues). Right presently, taxes applied to vehicles in this country are completely high. We cannot blame the government for doing it like that because the tax base is narrow. Allowing for spin-off businesses to start from the used vehicles market (inclunding enabling current dealers to expand their used vehicles division) would make it much easier for the government to broaden its tax base.
Rudi Botha: Approximately 80 % of employment-aged people of this country are in the informal sector. Only 20 % of these age-appropriate workers are in the formal sector. That is of the major reasons behind the government's narrow tax base.
Since I have been here, I have advocated a shared dialogue between the motor industry and the government. It is exactly what Mike is talking about. We can set it up like a community project and help people. It could be completely comfortable for the government, as well.

Speaking of community projects, how has SCM contributed to Zambia?
Mike Ng’uni: I think the contribution is huge. Prime off, we pay our taxes. Secondly, we employ people.
 Rudi Botha: We have about 220 personnel. If you multiply that with an average of 8 people per family, that is 1,760 people.
 Mike Ng’uni: We are as well involved in a number of community projects. Just behind us here, we have been supporting the maternity wing and the children's wing of the Chawama Clinic for years. We have refurbished it, provided furniture, and offered whatever support our means would allow.
In terms of our core business, we have contributed to the development of the country. I think you have seen some of the old vehicles around the area. We are a part of that. We have contributed a great transaction towards the transportation of goods and services. We have as well contributed towards the development of infrastructure.
 Rudi Botha: We as well offer opportunities to peripheral businesses (e.g., suppliers of tires, upholstery, equipment, etc.). That is fairly far-reaching, I think.
According to Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Given Lubinda, the government is open to meaningful investments from individuals/entities overseas. Just last April, a delegation of German investors visited the country to explore opportunities. Last year, the Zambian Embassy in Germany held its very prime Zambia-Germany Trade & Investment Conference in Berlin and Cologne. In your opinion, how can German investment contribute to the further expansion of the Zambian economy?
 Rudi Botha: The Germans are well known for their ability in technology and organisation. Germany is a very efficient country. I think that their visit to Zambia would enhance amount of that. We are hungry for that. There is so much opportunity for us to grab on to those policies that they have set up. If you look at the international market, Germany is supporting Europe to a large extent right presently. If they can just bring some of that to Zambia, the effects to us would be enormous.
 Mike Ng’uni: Yes, it would definitely be far-reaching. Other than technology transfer, we can as well benefit from their work ethics and business mentality.
 Rudi Botha: We were certainly excited about the German delegation. Any sort of partnership fit that such a visit may bring can be good for the company and Zambia.

What final message would you like to leave to the readers of the Financial Times Deutschland?
 Rudi Botha: Zambia is poised to move ahead very quickly. Any push that we can get from German investment would go a long way. At the same time as you think about it, Germans have always been at the forefront of development. I think this country is hungry for that. We are ready to embrace it. Enhancing the liaison between the nations can only be hugely beneficial for Zambia.
 Mike Ng’uni: Zambia offers very good investment opportunities. It is of those few places where returns on investment are very good. They will not regret coming here. Expanding the Zambian-German relations is beneficial for both parties.

Related Articles
  • Africa's Relationship With China Is Ancient History

    2017/07/02 In 2002 South Africa's Parliament unveiled a digital reproduction of a map - of China, the Middle East and Africa - that some speculated could be the initial map of the African continent. The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu - the Comprehensive Map of the Great Ming Empire - was drawn up around 1389 during the Ming Dynasty, according to historian Hyunhee Park.
  • Africa: Making Things Happen at the Bank - 'Not a Talk Shop' - Akin Adesina

    2017/07/02 Dr. Akinwumi Adesina is focusing on five areas to achieve the African and world goals for a prosperous continent since becoming president of the African Development Bank - Africa's major public financial institution in September 2015. He was a keynote speaker at this month's Corporate Council on Africa's U.S.- Africa Business Summit in Washington D.C. and moderated a lively panel with five African government ministers. He as well received the Gene White Lifetime Succcess Award from the World Child Nutrition Foundation. This week, he was named the 2017 recipient of the World Food Prize, a prestigious honor that includes a $250,000 award. In an interview in Washington, DC, Adesina discussed the Development Bank's ambitious schedule and his vision for attracting the increase capital Africa needs. Posting questions for AllAfrica was Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga.
  • Climate change laws around the world

    2017/05/14 There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997, according to the most comprehensive database of relevant policy and legislation. The database, produced by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Sabin Center on Climate Change Law, includes more than 1,200 relevant policies across 164 countries, which account for 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Growing number of children surviving complicated births in low

    2016/07/23 The number of children suffering from preventable blindness is increasing, half because additional children are surviving complicated births in low- and middle-gain nations, specialists say. Worldwide, about 19 million children under the age of 15 are blind, with 12 million of these cases preventable or treatable. Experts say one cause of high rates of blindness is retinopathy of prematurity (Rop), which occurs in premature infants and can be caused by being given too much oxygen next birth. Brian Doolan, CEO of the Fred Hollows Foundation, said world advances in neonatal care mean additional children are surviving early births, but this means additional premature babies are at risk of Rop.
  • Added value in Zambian economy and win-win partnerships gain momentum

    2015/11/08 Zambia’s government is targeting the diversification of its economy, particularly by boosting the agriculture and manufacturing sectors and adding price wherever possible, inclunding developing its infrastructure. Minister of Data Chishimba Kambwili discusses the opportunities and challenges ahead.