VW honours stalwart of the brand with top award

There is no easy way to describe it, but ‘seen it all’ could be the most accurate way to tell the story of Nic Malec, Dealer Principal at Volkswagen Hatfield, one of four recipients of the VWSA Lifetime Achievement Award.

23 Nic Hatfield1

Today, he also looks after the Commercial Vehicle and MAN Trucks divisions at the Hatfield Group.

Nic has had only two employers since he started working at the young age of 17. The first was VW Cathleen Motors Kempton Park, which later became VW Lindsay Saker Kempton Park, and then VW Hatfield in Pretoria. He spent around 25 years with each group, which for him, is his one and only brand – Volkswagen.

He tells Dealerfloor he came with his parents to South Africa from the UK, but when they decided to return, his mind was already made up that he was staying behind in South Africa. At the young age of 17, he started his apprenticeship at the Volkswagen dealer in Kempton Park and qualified as a motor mac, short for a mechanic.

Nic Malec and Steffen Knapp (Head of VW Passenger Car Brand).

“I started out on air-cooled engines till the first Golfs with the new water cooled-engines arrived. I still remember the diehard Volksie-fans saying that VW would eventually return to air-cooled engines. Of course this never happened.

“I soon learned that technology moves in one direction only and decided to embrace it as it would make our lives better and cars more reliable. In the ‘old days’ a car had its first service at 1 000 km, then 5 000 and twice again before it hit 20 000 kilos. Today there are vehicles that only need their first service at 90 000 kilometres.

“There are countless examples of ground-breaking technology that replace existing technology people found astonishing on cars. But the changes were not only dramatic in vehicles, , but also in how we arrange and run a dealership. Especially over the last decade, the boom in technology was exponential,” Nic tells Dealerfloor.

A much younger Nic after starting his Volkswagen career.

“The next big change is now with us, and that is the electric age of motoring. The biggest mistake we as South Africans can make is to think because of EV costs and load-shedding problems we might skip the new dispensation. It is coming, whether we are ready or not,” he says.

Nic says over the years, he specialised in the after-sales side of vehicle dealerships and when the Hatfield Group started out, he was instrumental in implementing a radically new approach where there were no traditional service advisers.

“We just decided to cut out the “middle-man” and let the technician and the customer on whose vehicle he or she was going to work, talk directly to each other. This approach, which had many sceptics, worked wonders for us.

“Not only did the technician and customer have to look one another straight in the eye about a problem, but the message was clear and from our side, the responsibility and focus on assisting customers were paramount. Our results with customer satisfaction over the years, are testament to the success of this strategy.”

Nic was instrumental in establishing the Hatfield Motor Group, with the owner, Brad Kaftel, and went on to become the Dealer Principal, away from his first love, the after-sales division, which he ran with precision and vision over many decades. The Hatfield group today boasts more than 36 dealerships covering many different brands.

“I have been privileged to win many awards over the years. These include two of the highest accolades Volkswagen Germany can bestow upon its people – the Golden Pin and Diamond Pin awards that were presented to me in Germany,” Nic tells us.

Asked about his leadership style, Nic says for him it is important to share the knowledge he gained over many decades with the next generation. “It is essential to get ahead in dealing with customers as they are fundamental in the success of any business.”

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