In May this year, as the lockdown eased, Maserati South Africa announced the appointment of its top salesperson, Nagesh Naidoo, to the role of Dealer Principal of Maserati Johannesburg.
Nagesh is a well-known name at Mercedes-Benz, where he spent most of his career, both at commercial vehicles at head office and later as regional sales manager for the Cargo and Sandown groups. For the last eight years, however, Nagesh is best known as Mr Maserati.
Dealerfloor popped in to Maserati House in Bryanston to chat to Nagesh.
DF: We see your name is still on the board, are you still going to be involved in sales?
NN: I know I have to start handing over, but after so many years, there are many customers who prefer to work with me. I was out on an errand last week and one customer came in and refused to talk to anyone else until I came back. You build up rapport and trust with your customers, and I want to honour that.
This is the type of customer service that I want to instil in Rain, Michael, Joshua and the rest of the team, and it is a trust that you often only get after showing your customers that you are serious about your brand and here to stay.
DF: We have to ask the question: How is it going post-lockdown?
NN: Very, very good. We used the time in lockdown to talk to our customers about the exciting new products being unveiled and to walk many of our prospects from doubt to making a decision. There was a lot of pent-up excitement when customers could finally come in and take delivery, and now we are on Italy’s back to get us more cars.
DF: Many people will know you from your years at Mercedes-Benz, especially looking after truck brands like Freightliner and FUSO. Now you are in the rarefied air of Italian luxury. Is it very different?
NN: Yes and no. At Maserati, like at Mercedes, we put the customer first. But here, it is at a whole different level of course and customer service remains king.
You build a very close relationship with your customer and you never forget how special a Maserati is for the buyer. So, we will do things like getting a regular customer to invite a group of friends and we bring the Italian chef and prosecco to celebrate their purchase.
You should never allow the brand aura to affect you. I feel very sad when I go to another luxury brand and the receptionist merely looks up from behind her desk, as if you are just another customer, or when the salesperson takes on the same distant and unapproachable personality of the brand.
(Note: Chloë, the receptionist, and Themba (the front-of-house security guard) both walk up and come and greet any walk-in at the door).
When we opened the current dealership, we had to wait more than a month before we could get any cars on the floor. Yet, in that first month, we sold 10 cars. That is the power of good customer service and a strong relationship.
DF: Maserati will soon launch its first hybrid model, a type of car that has not done well for some other luxury brands. What are your thoughts?
NN: I am excited about the Ghibli Hybrid. It is going to bring a younger, more tech-savvy customer through our doors. And I think Maserati has done well by not compromising on the pure Maserati sound or the craftsmanship.
There is a new energy at the brand and a number of exciting new models on their way. We should see the MC20 super sportscar in September and several other announcements before Christmas next year.
DF: What is your favourite model?
NN: We have a car for each mood. I love the new Maserati Levante Trofeo and had the opportunity to drive it on the Verano track against its competitors. Ultimately, the range has something to offer each type of customer, and I insist that every salesperson should drive every car.
There is a different energy when you talk to a customer and you have also experienced the car.
Despite the severe drought in large parts of the Karoo, the motor business in Graaff-Reinet is stepping up with more brands being represented in this part of the world.
If a pandemic and stock issues aren’t enough of a challenge, why not add a building project/dealership revamp/moving of facilities and getting a second dealership to full independent dealership status to a DP’s list of tasks.
Scott Auto Mazda in Bethlehem has a proud history that stretches back nearly 50 years, which makes them one of the best-known Mazda dealers in the Free State.