Making an impact through pragmatism and positivity
In his previous position as MD at Mercedes-Benz Trucks in the Netherlands, Jasper Hafkamp almost doubled the brand’s market share. GAVIN MYERS finds out how the new executive director of Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa will apply this success to South Africa.
By his own admission, there are three characteristics that define Jasper Hafkamp. First, he’s always been a people person. Second, he’s exceptionally driven, and, finally, he’s always been a Daimler man.
Together these three traits have resulted in a successful career in the commercial vehicle division of Mercedes-Benz spanning two decades. Hafkamp does say, though, that his training for a career in the industry started long before he actually turned the ignition key, so to speak…
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Hafkamp started off by studying business science before getting his degree in business administration, specialising in marketing. During his studies, he’d sell audio-visual equipment on the weekends. “I liked that interaction with people in the store,” he explains.
Following his graduation, Hafkamp began his career at his employer of choice – Mercedes-Benz – where eventually he would come to nearly double the brand’s market share in the Netherlands.
“At Mercedes-Benz I started with management training and got the opportunity to work in other countries. I also got the opportunity to start the marketing of commercial vehicles, and in about 2001 I became the marketing manager for the commercial-vehicles business of Mercedes-Benz in the Netherlands,” he explains.
An important shift for Hafkamp’s personal development came in 2007, when he became the truck-division sales director in the Netherlands. Then, in 2010, he became the MD. “This was a very good time for me, because in those days the brand did not have the highest market share in the Netherlands; it was only nine or ten percent. I came up with a very structured plan and we devised the ‘fuel duel’ concept where the company could prove itself against other manufacturers on fuel consumption. By using a really professional approach we were able to convince many new customers to join the brand, based on reliable facts.
“In 2016 our market share was up to 17 percent! Sustainably growing the market share was a real highlight, but I eventually got the feeling that I needed to take the next step in my career,” says Hafkamp.
This was when the opportunity to join Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa presented itself. Always up for a challenge, Hafkamp jumped at the opportunity.
“I’ve always liked challenges and South Africa is a challenging market from various perspectives… One of those is that the high number of manufacturers present here makes it very competitive. This makes it very attractive, but also very demanding.
“There are also a lot of customers and operators who are very professional and apply European levels of high standards … and, of course, there are also the not-so-professional customers. It’s interesting to see the differences,” he explains.
The position he holds as head of the regional centre makes Hafkamp’s role in South Africa even more special. He is responsible for nine African countries, all of which are rather different.
“We need to correctly position the right brands in the portfolio, but having the right footprint in the region is most important. The regional centre relies heavily on the South African base, but the nice thing about the concept is that we are able to provide proper support for our South African customers anywhere in the region,” Hafkamp explains.
Now that he’s had a year to settle in, what does Hafkamp have planned for 2018? “We worked tirelessly on our strategy during 2017. In 2018 we will start to implement it, so that we can support our customers in the best way possible.
“It will be very important to sustain our market position. On the one hand we want to grow our position in the medium-duty segment with the Fuso brand, and on the other we will disrupt the market with the introduction of the new range of Mercedes-Benz trucks. There’s a lot to look forward to,” he says excitedly.
With 2018 leading up to an election year it will also be important for the bus side of the business. “Historically election years are busy for the bus market. We’re growing our product and service offering accordingly,” he suggests.
For Hafkamp, this drive is what enables him and his team to reach for new heights. “I try to motivate myself and those around me. I also try to be very close to all our people, because that keeps me down to earth and pragmatic, which one needs to be in this business…
“At the moment the commercial-vehicle industry is all about change, which is strange for what is a ‘traditional’ industry. I’ve been working in the industry for more than 20 years and when I look at the changes over the last few years, they have all happened very quickly.
“If you want to be successful and make an impact, you have to be open to that change and willing to make a difference,” he concludes.