Selling VW parts out of an old church building while wearing a white, short safari suit, the official workwear, are some of the fond memories Otto Schoeman recalls.
He retires shortly after 44 years of service at Lindsay Saker Volkswagen in Bloemfontein as the Parts Manager.
“I entered service on 1 February 1976 as a Picker and Packer for a mere R350 a month at the Volkswagen dealership known as Phoenix Motors on the corner of Church and St Georges streets. The spare parts division was housed in and old church. Before getting ‘married’ to the Volkswagen dealer, I had a short career in the then South African Police Force.
“I grew up in Bloemfontein, and as a kid I use to play at the property next to Bloemfontein Motors, the first VW dealer in the city. Maybe that’s where it all started.”
While working in the parts department, Otto also assisted after hours in the workshop and quickly learned some mechanical skills. Eight years into his career, when Imperial took over the dealership, his boss retired, and Otto was appointed the new Parts Manager. Later he became the Area Parts Manager responsible for VW branches in the group, which by this time was known as Lindsay Saker. This job included responsibility for the parts of branches in the group from Polokwane in the north to Stellenbosch in the south.
”I have seen tremendous change over the years. From my first company car in 1978, a VW Beetle, to the great machines we have today. The secret is to keep up with technology, be aware of what the opposition does and know the difference between genuine parts and grey products.
“People always ask me if I ever got tired of the same place and people, and the answer is no. We have moved to new premises, changed the buildings, new people come and go, so never a dull moment.”
Asked whether he will stay on in Bloemfontein after retiring in October, Otto says that is a definite yes. ”I was born here, and my three kids and four grandchildren also live here.”
The last word belongs to the Regional Director and Dealer Principal at Lindsay Saker. “We are very proud of Otto, not only for his long service but also for being awarded Parts Dealer of the Year and Group Parts Dealer of the Year at the recent Volkswagen Grand Prix Awards. To think I was only four years old also when Otto started his career at Volkswagen. What an achievement!”
It does not take long to realise that the person on the other side of the telephone is a remarkable woman, someone who knows the motor trade by heart and defiantly not a pushover.
There is no substitute for hard work with passion, doing the things you love.
As the most awarded Volvo dealership in South Africa, TCM is the current South African Volvo Car Dealer of The Year as well as Service Dealer of the Year. Their secret? Making sure their focus is on their people.