Toyota dealers, staff of Toyota SA Motors and industry players from across the spectrum this weekend mourned the untimely death of Dr Johan van Zyl, the Executive Chairman of TSAM.
Johan (known by all as Doc) passed away in Pretoria from COVID-19-related complications. He was 63 years old.
Doc Van Zyl returned to Africa from a successful career as President and CEO of Toyota Europe and Senior Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). Prior to this, he held the position as CEO of the Africa region and President and CEO of Toyota SA Motors.
The sad news was followed by tributes from CEOs of major vehicle brands and companies from across the automotive spectrum.
Mikel Mabasa, CEO of Naamsa, the automotive business council, said: “‘The Doc’ as he was affectionately known within the auto corridors, led the automotive industry with distinction as Naamsa President during the highs of the industry when domestic new vehicle sales, vehicle exports and vehicle production records were achieved in 2006/2007.
“He was also at the helm and a towering architect of the Automotive Production Development Programme [APDP] in 2013. Equally, “the Doc” saw his fair share of industry lows when the market contracted by nearly half during the 2008/2009 global financial crisis.
“Dr Van Zyl was an influential and impactful leader, not only in the automotive industry, but also in the country when he and a number of other business leaders established the PPGI [Public Private Growth Initiative], which brought together social partners to work much closer together in resolving some of the country’s biggest socio-economic challenges.”
Mark Dommisse, chair of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA), said: “It is difficult to find suitable words to pay tribute to this truly remarkable man. It is fortunate that during his life he had the satisfaction of knowing the high esteem in which he was held by his colleagues and the broader industry. His inspiring leadership created a company with an enviable reputation, both in South Africa and abroad.
“As we reflect on the high standards he advocated, we are reminded of the many benefits dealers, as well as the broader automotive ecosystem, have enjoyed. He was a true inspiration to many who had the privilege to know and work with him.”
Among the many CEOs and senior leaders who praised the contribution of Doctor Van Zyl, was Billy Tom, President and CEO of Isuzu Motors SA.
“The passing of Dr Van Zyl is a great loss to the automotive industry, as he not only contributed to the success of Toyota, both locally and internationally, but played a pivotal role in growing and evolving the automotive industry as a whole.”
The Automobile Association added its voice in a national statement, saying: “Dr Van Zyl was a titan of the South African automotive sector who worked his way up the ranks at Toyota to eventually become President and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe, the first South African to hold this position. He worked tirelessly to innovate the automotive sector in our country, and his contribution locally and abroad was immense.
“He was a leader among his peers, and his passing is a loss to us all. He was a great industry trailblazer who left an indelible mark not only at Toyota, but also on the automotive industry as a whole and on our country.”
The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists said: “He will be remembered more for his wit, extensive knowledge and kindness than his exceptional career at Toyota. We think all will agree that he was a real “mensch” and that Covid has taken another one of South Africa’s motoring icons.”
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