Success part of GWM Alpina Springs repertoire

A veteran in the automotive world with a proven track record over many decades is at the heart of GWM/HAVAL Springs’ success in the latest Dealer of the Year contest for the Chinese vehicle brand.

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Severo Fernandes’s (photo) independent family dealership, won the category for best medium size dealer at GWM’s annual dealer conference. Together with his sons, Severo, Dino and son-in-law, Ricky, the Auto Alpina Group, today consists of the GWM/HAVAL dealership as well as a Stellantis dealership that lie opposite each other and an Auto Body Repair Centre.

“I am a qualified motor mechanic or as it is called today, technician, and my career stretches back to the seventies. You know what they say – if the fuel does not run through your veins, you should get out of this business. I am a petrolhead and have a passion for cars and people,” he tells Dealerfloor.

“In 1982, I started Auto Alpina BMW Springs, and in 1995 Auto Alpina BMW Boksburg was established. The two dealerships were constantly in the top five in terms of CSI in the country, including Dealer of the Year Awards and many other accolades. In 2008, we sold the Boksburg dealership and later, when BMW’s business model changed in 2017, I decided to venture into new opportunities,” Severo says.

At the back: George van Schalkwyk, Derick Mabunda, Raymond Mkwanazi, Ashely Pillay and Riccardo de Marco. In the middle are Sandiso Dubase, Tiyana Bentley, Angel Magagula and Dirk van Schalkwyk. In front are Severo Fernandes Jnr, Severo Fernandes (Dealer Principal) and Siuren Padayachee.

“It was time for a new challenge, and it came in the form of GWM/HAVAL. GWM is the umbrella company with HAVAL, P-Series, ORA and TANK. Since the early days of the Steed bakkies and the first HAVAL vehicles, I realised this is a brand on the move. Just look at the mighty product offering they have today.

“To partner with a brand and build a dealership and business around it, is only possible if you have the right people for the job. Our staff complement is 80 people, many of whom have been with us for more than 30 years.

Severo, who is 72, says he believed in building a legacy based on integrity, honesty and rendering a service second to none. “We still have many loyal customers from our previous brand who have followed us into the venture with GWM over the years, trusting my judgement and commitment,” he tells us.

The GWM dealership in Springs.

“In a couple of years, I can hand the reins over to my children who have been involved in the business for more than 25 years. Springs has a great community and has been the cornerstone of Auto Alpina Group for over 40 years,” Severo says.

As someone who has seen it all and who has gone through different phases of the ever-evolving automotive landscape, how does he see the future?

“Change is a given. A lot may change but sticking to fundamental values will see us survive. Yes, we are prepared for the electric future, we have already had experience with electric vehicles as far back as 2015 with the BMW i3 and i8 and now the Ora as well as HAVAL hybrids.

“But our biggest assets are our people and our approach to business. With a market that is reluctant to grow, competition between brands and dealership is fierce. There should be no question about your sustainability, which you will only ensure through the service you render throughout the dealership.

“Customer care is crucial. I still believe in one-on-one relationships and a professional sales team that prides itself in our products and our approach. We must place ourselves in the shoes of the customer. This is what I firmly believe and this is what has driven our success over decades,” Severo concludes.

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