Obituary: Malcolm Kinsey

Malcolm Kinsey, South Africa’s foremost motoring consumer journalist, died in KwaZulu-Natal on 20 January from COVID-19-related illness, two days before he would have turned 77.

KZN n2 Malcolm Kinsey

A spell-binding writer and born entrepreneur, Kinsey recently told Dealerfloor he never thought that he would become South Africa’s first automotive consumer journalist when he started the annual Kinsey Report in 1990. (Read the full report here.)

“I was only aiming to add an extra element to my reports on the models nominated for the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists Car of the Year, by listing prices for the most common parts that require replacement,” he said.

That “extra element” quickly became the most trusted source on the real cost of car ownership and is now backed by the Automobile Association (AA).

‘An institution in the motoring industry’

AA CEO Willem Groenewald said the AA partnered with Kinsey in 2019. “Malcolm was an institution in the motoring industry. His annual report is an authoritative and respected publication. He was passionate about the report and was meticulous in putting it together, ensuring all the details could be verified and cross-checked.

“He was always open to talk about his findings, was humble in accepting accolades, and was, above all, genuinely concerned about giving consumers useful information. He will be missed by the entire motoring industry, and especially those who were privileged to have worked with him. We are devastated by the news,” said Groenewald.

Doyen in the motoring trade, Flip Wilken of Wilken Communication Management, said Kinsey’s passing will leave a big gap in the motoring industry. “He was a stalwart who had a huge impact on the motoring industry, most of the manufacturers use his annual price basket to inform their pricing,” Wilken said.

Malcolm Kinsey
Malcolm Kinsey then 66, interviewed at the Isuzu 72 endurance racing at the Gerotek Test Track's high speed oval in Pretoria West in 2010.

Confirming this impact on both the motoring and media industries, chartered accountant Graham Erasmus said he has been using the Kinsey Report for years, both as a former “clutch and brake man” and publisher of the Automotive Business Review. “I was always amazed by the detail of his report and fascinated by prices of the more ‘esoteric’ parts like wishbones,” Erasmus said.

Richard Sloman, Group Sales Manager Autos at Gumtree SA and veteran media liaison officer for several vehicle marques, said the news of Kinsey’s passing was very sad. “I worked closely with Malcolm for many years and always had loads of time and respect for him. It’s a big loss to the industry.”

Rajesh Gupta, CEO Mahindra South Africa, said: “The name Malcolm Kinsey carries a lot of weight in Mahindra’s offices. We used his respected Kinsey Report as our true north for providing value to customers, and we often consulted with him on his findings and his thoughts for upcoming products. We will miss his honesty, integrity and hard work immensely.”

Corporate Affairs Executive at Isuzu Motors South Africa, Denise van Huyssteen, said everyone at Isuzu has many fond memories of Malcolm. “During the Isuzu 72 hour endurance event, which was held a couple of years ago, he was by far the most energetic participant. He demonstrated much more stamina than most of the younger folk who, after many hours of driving, were showing signs of fatigue. In fact he even had a bottle of window cleaner on hand and was actively helping the other drivers to keep their windows clean,” said van Huyssteen.

In KwaZulu-Natal, dealers, who often fielded Kinsey calls, also reacted with shock at the news. MD of Key Group Pietermaritzburg, Mike Hall Jones, expressed his condolences to Gill and family. Another stalwart and well-known figure in our industry lost but will never be forgotten.

The hooligan racer days

Gordon Hall, who has been friends with the Kinseys for 50-odd years, said in their young days, Kinsey had the nickname "West Street Willy”.

“He was a street drag artist, and in his guise as a ‘re-interpreter of rules’, the bane of the old Durban City Police after midnight.

“He was also an excellent motor racing photographer, a saloon car racer, a fuel economy run specialist, while remaining strictly within the bounds of what was written, rallyist, writer, cyclist, raconteur, a long-standing Guild member, mentor to many including Yours Truly, devoted husband, father and grandfather.

“He was all these and more; he was a Car of The Year jury member many times over, on the Guild committee since Adam was a boy in shorts and the Guild’s KZN representative for many more years than he chose to remember.

“He also handled KZN press fleets for most manufacturers at various times as well. His generosity, helpfulness and flexibility in that regard were legendary.”

Hall said Kinsey suffered heart problems in recent years, and after suffering a serious fall from his bike recently, he never fully recovered from that. “A run-in with COVID was finally too much for even his indomitable spirit. He passed away as a result of complications related to that disease on 20 January 2021, two days before his 77th birthday.”

Kinsey is survived by his wife, three children and grandchildren. His family was closely involved with producing the Kinsey Parts Report, and said they and the AA will make an announcement on the report’s future in due course.

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