A journey of a lifetime with Volvo

He could be called Mr Volvo as he is in all probability the longest-serving Dealer Principal at a Volvo dealership in the country. Denis Chapman started and has been steering the Volvo dealership in Gqeberha since 1994 under the then Lippstreau banner and since 2005 as part of the Eastern Cape Motors Group.

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Over the years, Denis and the dealership have received many trophies and accolades, especially when it comes to customer care – three After-Sales Dealer of the Year awards with latest being Volvo Car Finance Most Improved Dealer of the Year for 2021.

Denis himself received the Managing Director Special Award for Excellence from Volvo, acknowledging his commitment and consistent performance over the years.

“My career started in the clothing industry, first at a big clothing manufacturer and retail company, running a number of their branches. At a later stage, I went solo with a clothing operation in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. After a couple of years, I decided to call it a day when decay of the inner city started,” Denis tells Dealerfloor.

Denis Chapman DP at Eastern Cape Motors’ Volvo dealership in Gqeberha.

“I had a friend at Langlaagte Toyota who invited me to try my hand at car sales. I quickly found my rhythm and thoroughly enjoyed it. I went back to Gqeberha, or Port Elizabeth as it was then known and kicked off at Lippstreau’s Ford dealership in the city. In 1994, Volvo was relaunched in South Africa, and I was at the helm of the establishment of the dealership in the city.”

Denis says that last year the Eastern Cape Motors Group added the Subaru franchise to its portfolio in Gqeberha, which he also oversees. “My journey with Volvo has been a tremendous one and even with the ups and downs, I gained a huge amount of respect for the Swedish brand.

Inside the Volvo dealership.

“The last few years with COVID and its knock-on effects, the semiconductor crisis, which resulted in huge stock backlogs, the general stagnation of the local economy and steep price increases related to factors such as exchange rates and the weak local currency certainly challenged any business, not the least a premium car retailer.

“The arrival of a number of new brands from the East and Far East on local shores might stimulate the new vehicle sales to a certain extent. The reality is that more established brands, especially premium brands, are still taking a beating for the aforementioned reasons,” he says.

The Volvo Select section at the dealership.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. “Increased production and availability will go a long way to put us back on a better footing. We must also accept that the change-over from normal petrol engines to full electric vehicles will eventually happen, and we must rather be prepared than getting caught off-side.

“Volvo is well underway in this regard, and our full EVs are very popular. By 2030 internal combustion engines will no longer be produced. Currently, the hybrid in its various forms is a good alternative and paves the way for full electric vehicles in the future,” he tells Dealerfloor.

Denis is also excited about the recently added Subaru brand to the dealership. “This is a no-nonsense brand, and the price ranges fill the gap between our Volvo range perfectly. We are able to assist a broader spectrum of potential buyers with these two brands on hand.”

He says during difficult times the Volvo Select (for used Volvo’s up to five years) and their pre-owned division (for older vehicles) played a major part in their survival and success. “With new stock issues spilling over to the used side, we still managed to establish a solid foundation on the used car side of the dealership,” Denis concludes.

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