Humble man at the helm of Hino
Dr Casper Kruger does not like the spotlight. But as vice president of Hino, South Africa, it comes with the territory. CLAIRE RENCKEN finds out more.
Kruger has been in his current position since 2009. He welcomed the new challenge as, prior to that, his experience lay in the passenger and light commercial vehicle sectors, gained mainly during his tenure at Toyota which began in 1996, and a brief two-year period at Ford from 2007 to 2009.
The man’s academic accolades are equally impressive. He completed a master’s degree in marketing management at the University of the Free State in 1989, and his doctorate in business management at the University of Johannesburg (then known as Rand Afrikaans University or RAU) in 1996. He was also a lecturer in marketing management at Unisa for five years.
When asked about the company’s resounding success at the recent Scott Byers customer satisfaction awards – Hino walked away with awards in all four categories (sales, service, parts and overall) – Kruger was quick to praise the dealers for their stellar performance at the coal-face with customers. He also attributes the success to the Toyota Touch, a long-term philosophy placing the customer first. Hino pays close attention to the people it brings into the fold. “Toyota Touch is well entrenched in our company’s DNA,” says Kruger. “It was implemented in the mid-eighties and is all about continuous improvement in true Toyota fashion. We all work well as a team, and it is our support to the dealers, in terms of training and quick decision-making when the need arises, that in turn enables them to provide customers with the best possible service.”
For Kruger, another vital ingredient is consistency. “I believe that might be what set us apart from the competition in terms of these awards. We strive to do small things consistently well, which, over time, has led to our success.”
Working with the Hino brand has been a definite career highlight for Kruger. “The truck industry is becoming far more serious and professional, and also a lot more selective. We’re a relatively small market in South Africa, with a lot of competitors, which means customers have a lot more choices. So you really need to produce results and come up with innovative new ideas in order to survive.”
Kruger also enjoys the more personal relationships with customers in the truck industry: “At the end of the day, you buy a truck from someone you know, not from a company. A lot of our business is repeat business from big fleet owners, so you really have to cultivate and nurture those relationships.”
Going forward, Kruger believes there will be growth opportunities for dealers as trucks become more technologically advanced, with innovations such as automated manual transmission (AMT) and full automatic transmission. “It will become more and more difficult for truck owners to do their own servicing and repairs, and dealer expertise will become vital.”
Kruger suspects that although there may not be huge growth in sales in 2013, it will be a good time for consolidation and stabilisation. “With any luck, labour issues and the economy in general will stabilise, so that there can be growth again in the years to come,” he concludes optimistically.