Kia South Africa welcomes new CEO

Paul Turnbull is the new CEO of Kia South Africa. The leadership change was announced by Osman Arbee, CEO of Motus Holdings, in April and comes into effect as part of a broader set of leadership changes within the group.

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Paul joins Kia from Hyundai Automotive South Africa and succeeds Gary Scott, who held the position of CEO at Kia since 1 July 2017 and who has been appointed Chief Digital Officer of Motus Holdings.

Paul (51) was born and raised in Johannesburg, matriculating at Jeppe High School for Boys and attaining a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude). He started his career in the automotive industry at the age of 22, joining Wheels of Africa – which held the distributorship for Hyundai in South Africa at the time – in 1995 as a sales coordinator.

With a knack for retail, he moved into the role of sales executive by the end of the same year and into the role of Dealer Principal at Hyundai Nelspruit a mere two years later, become the company’s youngest DP in 1997 at the age of 25.

Paul Turnbull, new CEO of Kia SA.

A year later, he moved to the Middelburg branch – leading it to win Dealer of the Year in 1998 – before relocating to the Western Cape and taking up the leadership at the Tygervalley branch. In 1999, Wheels of Africa was liquidated, with the Hyundai distributorship moving to Associated Motor Holdings (AMH), a division of Imperial Holdings.

Paul moved into the AMH network as Dealer Principal in 2000 and was promoted to regional manager in Cape Town in April 2001. In this capacity, his responsibilities grew from looking after four dealerships to ten, reporting directly to the CEO of Hyundai Automotive South Africa, followed by a promotion to Regional Director in 2005.

His success in turning the region into one of the company’s most profitable operations resulted in six dealers from the Pretoria region being added to his portfolio in 2015, followed by an additional six dealerships on Johannesburg’s West Rand – growing the portfolio to a total of 22 highly profitable dealers. In 2023, Turnbull was promoted to MD of Hyundai Automotive South Africa’s retail division, virtually doubling his portfolio to 43 dealers.

“I’m excited to join the Kia brand, despite the current economic headwinds that are affecting the entire automotive industry,” he says. “Kia is a brilliant brand with brilliant products, and there are boundless opportunities for the brand to accelerate the remarkable growth it’s seen in the 25 years it’s been active in South Africa. The industry is facing many challenges at the moment, but we remain bullish about growing Kia’s market share beyond 5% in the next two years.

According to him, this goes hand-in-hand with investing in the people who make up the business. A key focus for him is to reset expectations and to ensure that the right people are in the right places. He has also greenlighted further investments into training and the development of staff across the board, enabling people to deliver the best at all times and to create opportunities for everyone to excel.

He attributes this belief to the exceptional leaders and mentors he has been exposed to while working his way up the ranks, including well-known industry leaders like Manny de Canha, Allan Ross and Niall Lynch.

“One of Kia’s values is to keep things simple, which is in a natural alignment with my own leadership style,” comments Paul. “We’re all blessed with the capacity to think, but we tend to over-analyse things and delay action. I thrive in making informed decisions and making them decisively. There’s no room for ego in our business, so I’m not scared of admitting when a mistake has been made and to reverse a decision if it’s needed.

“My leadership style allows people to remove the mental hurdles that constrain decisiveness and acting when it’s needed. We’re blessed with good people who are passionate about the brand, our products and our collective potential, and my responsibility is to ensure that everyone feels comfortable to contribute the best ideas and plans to move the brand and business forward.”

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