Chewing your words and then having to swallow them is really a ‘yuk’ thing to have to do. Yet that is what I am having to do right now in the case of Ernie Trautmann, vice president of Hino South Africa. I’ll get back to that – but first things first writes Patrick O’Leary.
A big congratulations goes to Hino Trucks which has made history by winning a platinum award and being placed top of the commercial vehicle category and overall in South Africa in the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) dealer satisfaction index (DSI) for 2017. The results were announced at a recent NADA awards function in Johannesburg.
This is the first time a platinum award has been made in this prestigious annual survey for scores over 85%. Hino increased its score by 1.8% over 2016 to achieve a leading 85.4%.
The NADA survey tracks dealer satisfaction relationships with their respective OEMs – manufacturers or distributors. A total of 40 independently tracked brands formed part of the overall survey which includes passenger and LCV brands. There were 1 319 completed responses with 173 of them emanating from the 10 truck brands surveyed.
“The improvement over the past few years – Hino was only fifth in 2013 – did not happen by accident and achieving No. 1 position in the NADA DSI survey was one of our objectives,” says Ernie Trautmann, vice president of Hino South Africa.
“This is truly a team effort and a living testimony to our ‘One Team – One Pledge’ approach and an outflow from the international Hino Total Support philosophy we employ in all we do. This is further proof of the way we are building a culture of trust between our various stakeholders using the Hino Total Support philosophy,” he says.
Let’s now get back to why I’m having to chew and swallow my words. When Ernie Trautmann was introduced as the new vice president of Hino South Africa some time back, I had huge doubts as to his ability – as a former ‘car dinky toy’ man – to run the Hino operation where trucks would be his focus.
Cars are emotional things where transactions rather than relationships dominate. Trucks, on the other hand, are business tools and here is where a totally different mind-set has to kick in. Cars carry people, trucks carry steel and it is via the nature of the latter arena that the relationship mind-set takes precedence over any thought of a quick sale to a wandering customer. You’re with your truck customer for years and he is a demanding type of animal. The car guy drives out and you might never see him again.
I voiced this view at the press conference where he was introduced and I remember well him saying that it was a fair observation but that he was skilled in strategy and that he would ‘strategise’ the company and rely on his team and his dealers to further the relationships with their customers.
Mmmmm!! It wasn’t an ideal answer and my doubts lingered. I watched from the side-lines and didn’t hear much from him at all. I heard though, that he was implementing new strategies and programmes for dealers and was injecting funds into the dealer network to ensure they were top class.
All well and good but about a year went by before I had the chance to catch up with him again. This time – at a Gerotek function – I asked if the media were at all important to him as he seemed to be ignoring this facet of his wider relationships. I needed to have better communications so as to enable FleetWatch to let our readers know what was going on in Hino – and this was not happening.
He admitted that he was perhaps at fault but again stressed that his first year’s concentration had been on enhancing the dealer network via new programmes that were now bearing fruit. He assured me he would place more accent on the communication side.
From that day onwards, our commuincations were spot-on and I got to know the man better – and I saw there was a lot more to him than initially met the eye. I attended a few dealer functions and the vibe was good. The dealers were pumped and I could see he had a great relationship with them. His strategy was paying dividends and the NADA platinum award endorses this fact.
I can also attest to the reality that there is a good vibe within the Hino operation. The spirit and morale is great and the whole organisation is getting closer and closer to its customers. The sales figures also prove this and further good news is that new product is on its way which will elevate the offerings to an even higher level.
So back to me having to chew and swallow my words. I genuinely thought that as a former car man and an initial one-year media non-communicator, he was the wrong guy to head this important trucking OEM. Well, Hino Trucks is going from strength to strength in the hands of Ernie Trautmann. I was wrong. He is the right guy. OK, OK that’s enough now – swallow. Gluck – it’s done.