Moving up a level

A 26-year stalwart of Toyota South Africa, Trautmann is excited about furthering Hino’s success in the local market.

The management of Hino South Africa has a very clear vision of where the company will be in the year 2020, and it’s up to two new faces to set the route. GAVIN MYERS meets Ernie Trautmann and Pieter Klerck.

Trautmann, Hino South Africa’s new vice president, and Klerck, the company’s new general manager of sales and dealer network, have been “born and bred” in the South African automotive industry – specifically within the Toyota South Africa operation.

“I’m boring … I’ve been with Toyota for 26 years,” laughs Trautmann, who’s history with the company is really anything but boring. Trautmann’s most recent post, prior to joining the Hino division, was that of general manager of sales and dealer network, which he held since 2006. Before that he spent eight years in the Dubai regional operation, and has also worked in training and customer relations – implementing new ways of training staff and the company’s toll-free customer service touch point.

By comparison, Klerck’s time with the company, itself, has been relatively short. Before joining Hino, he was senior manager of marketing communications for Toyota, having joined the company in 2006. “Prior to that I was in the advertising industry for close on 25 years, 20 of which I spent working on various parts of the Toyota account,” he explains.

Klerck’s claim to fame is that he was part of the team that came up with the “Buddy the dog” advertising concept for Toyota in 2008. “That was challenging, because the bottom end of the automotive market had fallen out and budgets were cut to the bone,” he says. But working hard combined with the adrenalin and pressure of new challenges is what makes Klerck tick.

Likewise Trautmann: “What I enjoy is the challenge of making a contribution – one person doesn’t make an organisation; you’re part of a much bigger picture. Being part of a team and seeing people develop and change motivates me.”

Klerck was part of the team that came up with one of Toyota’s most successful marketing campaigns during one of the market’s toughest periods. He loves hard work and a challenge.That, says Trautmann, doesn’t only include his immediate team, but the dealers, their customers and even Hino Motors Limited in Japan. Everyone will form part of their strategy as the two men to take Hino South Africa forward.

“If something is bad for one of the four partners, we won’t be able to achieve anything. So, we need support from Hino in Japan; we support the dealers, and they support the customers.

“We created a joint business strategy with Hino Motors Limited. Pieter and I presented to Hino top management in October. It’s a partnership to take Hino South Africa to the next level in the long term,” he explains.

With Hino SA being the highly integrated organisation that it is, Klerck is excited that everyone in the organisation is ready to make it happen. “We’ve taken everybody with us and they know that they’re part of the vision,” he says. The support of the Hino family has also made joining the very different trucking side of the business a bit easier …

“Coming from the Dinky Toy side, we were happy that the Hino team immediately accepted us – they didn’t feel we would rock the boat,” Klerck explains. Trautmann concurs: “Not coming in from another company or industry smoothes out the transition. The processes and cultures are the same in the car and the truck divisions, and it’s interesting that a number of people in Hino Motors in Japan have also come from Toyota.”

Nonetheless, both men realised quickly that this was a very different ball park – but it’s clear that diesel is creeping into their blood. “Previously, when travelling on the road, I would notice all the new cars, now I can’t wait to see which trucks I will come across and what they’re carrying,” laughs Klerck. “I check the make and model of every truck I see, and, if it’s not a Hino, I want to know why that company isn’t running one,” Trautmann continues.

Nevertheless, Trautmann is pleased with the company’s successful year and is happy to be on track to achieve the objective of 4 000 unit sales. “A key success driver is the aftersales service to maintain the customer over the lifecycle of the truck. It’s part of the Hino Total Support policy,” Klerck adds. This is what promotes brand loyalty among Hino customers. “Eighty to 90 percent of all the points that come up in our customer satisfaction surveys go back to communication. Hino Total Support forms the basis for the company to communicate and keep it promises.”

“A phrase we use a lot is Genchi genbutsu, which is Japanese for “going to the source”. It is so true for this industry – everything comes from the bottom up; if the customer is happy we will be happy,” Trautmann continues. “Understanding each customer’s business is crucial.”

Trautmann and Klerck are also very clear about what’s next for their own business. “Our strength lies in the medium and heavy sectors. The challenge for Hino, worldwide, is to understand the extra-heavy market. We will play there competitively in the next couple of years,” Trautmann assures.

“We are doing the right things. We just need to make the business fitter – to run faster and do things more quickly. Customers can expect Hino to move closer to their businesses and be more understanding of their wants and needs. We will also focus on living the Hino Total Support philosophy to continuously improve our business.”

The enthusiasm on Trautmann and Klerck’s faces is clear. They’re up for the challenge. Next stop, 2020.

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