Overcoming obstacles to take top award

To say against all odds might not be far from the truth for this year’s overall Mitsubishi Dealer of the Year (DOTY) winner, Mitsubishi Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal.

22 Mitsubishi Juliana1

The dealership is part of Bidvest McCarthy Inyanga Motors, which also includes Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and commercial vehicles, as well as Mitsubishi’s Fuso truck range in a multi-franchise set-up.

Not only did the Mitsubishi dealership scoop up the top spot in category C for smaller dealerships, but it took the overall winner’s prize for the Japanese carmaker in South Africa.

“We knew we might take the honours in our category as we have worked very hard towards achieving this goal but it came as a huge surprise when we were announced the overall Dealer of the Year winner,” says Juliana Appel, Selling Sales Manager for the brand at the dealership.

Here is Mitsubishi’s winning team: Thulani Sibiya (Mitsubishi Sales Executive), Omesh Rambarran (Mitsubishi Technician), Albertus Slabbert (Mitsubishi Workshop Supervisor), Krisan Govender (Mitsubishi Parts Sales Executive), Julz Appel (Mitsubishi Selling Sales Manager) and Craig Schnell (Dealer Principal).

“We were ecstatic, and it was the cherry on top of the cake for us. It is the first time that we’ve won this award with only the Mercedes-Benz and its commercial vehicle division at Inyanga Motors that have previously won top awards,” she tells Dealerfloor.

If you talk about the odds they had to overcome for this great achievement, think about the “additional” obstacles in doing business. “The riots and floods created serious challenges for everyone, not the least of us here in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Although the riots and floods did not devastate our infrastructure, it did knock loud on our door with private and business customers holding back on buying new vehicles for some time. Also take into consideration the security issues and with the floods the closure of the Durban harbour for a period and the knock-on effect that had.

Juliana or Julz Appel, Selling Sales Manager, taking charge at Mitsubishi.

“Without focusing on just the negative things, remember the better known problems we experienced around COVID and the after-effects of constant stock issues across the board for all models and manufacturers. Some of these problems are still a reality today.

Winning this award is also a proud moment for me, who joined the Mitsubishi brand here in 2017 after a stint on the Mercedes-Benz side since 2014. We took a huge leap in a period of five years to reach the top spot, one that we will most certainly work hard at to defend,” Juliana says.

“The kind of vehicles and assistance from our head office as well as from the brands side, is a massive part of our success. The most important of all was our renewed focus on customer care, treating every client as if he/she is the only client. Happy customers tell other people and customers are what every business needs to make a success.

“More recently, our product offering increased with a variety of ranges that caters for customers with different needs. Our area, which encompasses many rural towns and villages as well as a large agricultural sector, is perfect for our Triton pick-up and Pajero Sport. Even the smaller and more affordable model ranges like the ASX and Eclipse Cross are in demand thanks to their ability to handle rough roads.”

Mitsubishi in Empangeni, part of Bidvest McCarthy Inyanga Motors in the KwaZulu-Natal town.

Juliana says they are looking forward to the arrival of the new Outlander before the end of the year, and this luxury flagship model will be a stunning addition to the current range. We are now renovating our dealership to make it more attractive and customer friendly and to fit in with our status as an award-winning dealership,” she says.

Before venturing into the business of car sales, Juliana was a qualified Human Resources Development Facilitator and assessor at one of the prestigious vehicle rental companies in Johannesburg, training South Africans and staff from neighbouring countries for 13 years.

After her husband was transferred to KwaZulu-Natal, she used the opportunity to establish a new career. “In human resources, you work with people, and I have immense passion for people. Now I have combined that skill with selling vehicles and working with customers, which I thoroughly enjoy,” she tells Dealerfloor.

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