Auto retail – it runs in the family

Auto retail runs in Karen Müller’s veins, starting with her time as a young girl on the floor of her father’s dealership to today, where she runs the Kelston Group’s large Stellantis multi-franchise dealerships in Gqeberha.

22 Jeep Fiat1

As DP of this multi-franchise, Karen overseas brands like Jeep, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Citroën and Mahindra on two new premises that face each other on opposite sides of a busy Gqeberha street.

Karen’s father owned the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Humansdorp where she grew up. She worked on the floor with her father for two years before leaving for London in the UK to study accounting.

On her return to South Africa, Karen joined Goodyear Tyres for two years, before returning to Humansdorp and her father’s Mercedes showroom. Here she served in several departments and, after her father sold the business, she stayed on as branch manager.

The Alfa, Jeep and Fiat showrooms are on one side of the dealership.

Karen moved to Gqeberha to take up a new role as Pre-Owned Sales Manager at a local dealership in town. She joined the Kelston Motor Group in 2016.

“I immediately felt at home at the Kelston Group and the McNaughton family. The involvement, help and interaction from management are absolutely first class. For instance, the directors of the group has created a management programme for staff to assist them with growing their careers, and they always look for new opportunities to promote and grow employees’ careers. I believe their focus on training and opportunities is part of the Kelston Group’s success story,” says Karen.

“I love the fact that new ideas, new technology and the expansion of the brand take priority. Although we are mainly based in the Eastern Cape, our focus and reputation stretch beyond the province,” Karen tells Dealerfloor.

“After our family business was sold and my time with the Mercedes brand, we worried about what was next. I can say in all honesty that my decision to join the Kelston Group was the best one I ever made.

On the other side, Peugeot, Citroën and Mahindra have their showrooms.

“Our growth of the different brands within our multi-franchise set-up was phenomenal and led to the decision to move to new and bigger premises. We occupy two premises opposite each other. On the one side we have Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo and the workshop and on the other side are Peugeot, Citroën and Mahindra.

“Our workshop has a much larger capacity than before and with the ever-increasing car parc, the workshop has become a hive of activity. And our new vehicle division is also performing very well. We were the number one Citroën dealership in 2019, and we recently celebrated a milestone for our sales manager who sold his 100th vehicle off this floor,“ says Karen.

She says the stock shortages continue to be a challenge and even more so are the consistent supply of parts owing to the international situation – with suppliers that closed shop during the last two years and new ones being established. “We are fortunate that within our group we have a great system to assist each other in all respects and especially with the sourcing of used vehicles between all the different branches.

“In terms of new vehicles, the current-day crisis in stock availability brought a new sense of camaraderie between dealerships throughout the country. We realised that if one brand or dealership runs into trouble, more can follow. Helping each other is in the interest of the survival of us all,” she says.

Karen tells us that good customer service is fundamental, not only in retaining customers, but to attract new clients to the different brands. “We passionately believe that getting bums into seats, especially with new cars, is essential and have a variety of demonstration models for this purpose.

“Today people buy online, and prospective customers walking into a showroom are highly informed on what they want and all the details related to a specific model. Getting a person behind the steering to let them see, feel and experience the vehicle is extremely important. We really go the extra mile in this regard,” she concludes.

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