Very few, if any, Dealer Principals (DPs) out there can boast a career path like Guy Kilfoil of BMW Bedfordview.
spoke to Guy about the business today as DP for the last four years with an award-winning BMW dealership and also his very interesting transition from early career paths to where he is today.
But first we asked Guy about BMW Bedfordview and its owners. “We are a privately owned Dealer Group (Vermaak Family (74.9%) and Imbani Holdings (25.1%)) and we have three BMW/MINI dealerships in Gauteng.
“We own BMW Sandton (BMW, BMW Motorrad and MINI), BMW East Rand (BMW, BMW Motorrad and MINI) and BMW Bedfordview (BMW and MINI). We also have two Approved Repair Centres for BMW/BMW Motorrad/MINI in the form of BMW Sandton ARC and BMW East Rand ARC.
“We are categorised as a large BMW dealership (and medium MINI dealership) with over 100 employees and service upwards of 45 vehicles a day and retail between 70 and 100 units a month,” he told Dealerfloor.
Your career took you basically through so many facets of the motoring and related trade?
“Yes, I started in the motor industry as a motoring journalist having spent the early part working in advertising. Then I ended up at a communications company, which delivered motoring content to various airline magazines and also published a trucking magazine.
“Then I had a stint at Cars in Action Magazine as editor after which I became Media Liaison and PR manager at DaimlerChrysler SA for the Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge brands. I was lucky enough to be employed in a similar role at BMW SA in 2005 and spent the best part of the next 12 years building a fantastic career with a brand I fell in love with the first time I saw a BMW 325iS racing at Kyalami as a young boy,” Guy said.
He then spent time as head of marketing for MINI, five years as GM: Corporate Communications & Public Affairs; a role that had a seat on the Management Board of BMW SA, before moving to GM: Brand Management and Marketing Services, which was the role he held when he left in 2016.
“Retail was the next logical step for me, and I’ve been very privileged to make what isn’t always an easy transition thanks to the incredible guidance of my directors in my current company,” he reckoned.
But back to the business of selling cars in these tough times. How do you sell a BMW or a Mini to people with less disposable income?
“It’s certainly harder post-COVID-19, but ultimately the days of selling cars via sticker price are fast disappearing. The OEM-subvened finance offers with guaranteed buy-backs make it incredibly cost effective for customers to buy new cars at competitive instalments.
“Just as significantly, BMW/MINI’s new direct sales agency model (retailers no longer own new car stock or demos, and transactions are conducted via a national online sales platform: buy.bmw.co.za or buy.mini.co.za) has also eased the capital burden on dealers and allowed dealers to concentrate on customer experience, which is something that has been a strength of our dealership over the years.”
Asked about the importance of a pre-owned car division in today’s business, Guy says it is massively important. He says used cars remain the lifeblood of the retained profit in the vehicle sales departments of a premium dealership and remain a core focus.
“A great deal of time and energy are spent on sourcing saleable stock and concentrating on paying strong (but not wrong) for trade-ins and not skimping on recon costs to deliver an exceptional pre-owned buying experience.”
And his prediction for future and the business environment? “It is really hard to make a prediction, but I think there will be fewer dealers in future. Dealers will need to be able to weather a number of storms (both economic and socio-political) and concentrate on exceptional customer service, strict control of unnecessary costs and maximising second gross profit streams (F&I income, VAPS, etc) in order to survive.
“Factor in the pressures that electro-mobility will put on workshops (with less maintenance and fewer visits) and the only solution is fewer dealers, doing more volume in bigger areas. All of the motor industry’s issues are really socio-economic ones. We need to get unemployment and crime under control, create jobs, grow the economy and expand the middle class, and the motor industry will follow. Without that, we will continue to have to fight for a bigger slice of a smaller pie. Unfortunately, there is no other silver bullet.”
On a lighter note. Surely there must have been some funny moments at the dealership?
“I think the most interesting stories to tell would be a serious infringement of the POPI act. But one of the funniest ever stories is of a customer who was complaining about a noise in his car every time he drove over a certain stretch of highway.
“The noise was described as the sound of a motorcycle wanting to overtake but never appearing. It turns out the customer kept driving over one of those rumble strips the road markings are painted on and did not realise that’s what the noise was. Needless to say, we all had quite a chuckle,” he says.
And how does he spend his spare time?
“I’m first and foremost a father and husband and have three wonderful children (twin boys aged 7 and a daughter aged 3) and am married to an Italian wife (Daniella); so family time is a massive part of my life and our big Italian famiglia is the most important thing to me. I am crazy about cycling and enjoy gym, reading, cooking (really braaiing but I like to pretend that counts) and spending time in the great outdoors,” he concluded.
Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) kept the wheels rolling this year with the opening of five new dealerships in four provinces.
The latest addition to the Stellantis dealer network is a large, new Super Group multi-franchise facility in Jacaranda Street, Hennopspark, Centurion, for Jeep, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot and Citroën.
We can overcome all the hurdles placed in front of us if we recognise our biggest asset in business is our people, says Rob Downs the Dealer Principal at CMH Nissan and Mitsubishi Pinetown.