Ask anybody interested in cars what is South Africa’s fastest growing auto brand and nine times out of ten they’ll get it wrong.
That brand is not Suzuki or Haval — although both these marques are doing very well — but Mahindra, which grew by 28.7% in 2019, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Naamsa).
One of the sales managers leading this charge among Mahindra’s 60 dealers in South Africa is Brendon Ruthanum, at the busy Mahindra dealership in Pietermaritzburg.
“We are looking at 57% growth for the dealership, with a good mix of our entry level SUVs, workhorse bakkies and SUVs,” he told Dealerfloor.
Ruthanum says his job is made a lot easier by the fact that the bosses at Mahindra & Mahindra view South Africa as their most important market outside of India. “Customers see that the company bosses are not just paying lip service when they say we are important. They see the local assembly factory in Durban, the SA-specified, special edition Karoo Pik Ups, and how we were the first market outside of India to get an automatic Pik Up.
“At the dealership, we see it in useful after-market services, like the Xmart factory warranty on used vehicles. Such commitment inspires loyalty at all levels, which makes my job of selling that much easier,” he says.
Back in the workshop, Service Manager Ricardo Pillay says he think the never-say-die Bolero did the most to build the Mahindra brand. He recalls back when the Bolero launched, farmers joked how they don’t worry about resale values because they would just drive the Bolero until they fall apart. “They are still driving those Boleros, now with high miles on the clock, but we don’t see them often as the owners do their own maintenance.”
Pillay says these first adopters have now all become brand ambassadors who tell others how tough but affordable Mahindras are.
Technician Alwyne Reed said in his experience the typical Mahindra customer is well informed on car trends but quite demanding.
“Our customers are not always into brands or fashion, but they are always into getting the most durability and comfort for their money,” says Reed, adding, “and that’s what this brand delivers best — comfort that lasts.” Patting the Thar he is servicing, he adds: "OK, the Thar is not built so much for comfort as for going anywhere, but this is the best-kept 4x4 secret in town."
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