It started in September 2016 when, along with their then business partners, Tank and Isabella Coetzee, they took over the Ford Hermanus dealership and immediately doubled the monthly car sales simply by implementing the best practice in the industry that their combined 40 years of experience had taught them – better car floor plans and stockholding, a focus on pre-owned car sales and trade-ins, and improved customer and workshop service.
“If there is one thing that became glaringly obvious in my business analysis of the market, it was that people did not buy in Hermanus. I found that people wanted to buy in Hermanus but didn’t feel that they were getting good service. That’s why I focused on the workshop, spare parts and service,” said Wikus.
But an improved customer experience required investment in building the Ford Hermanus team and, within months, the staff complement had doubled from the 12 who were originally there when Wikus and Tank took over.
In February 2018, opportunity came knocking when the existing Nissan franchisee wanted to disinvest from Hermanus to focus on his other dealerships in the country. For Wikus and Tank, this was a no brainer.
“Tank was a Ford man with 20 years experience and I was a Nissan man with similar years of experience with the car company. So it was easy for us to take on the new challenge of managing two dealerships,” said Wikus.
Again, by applying best practice in the industry, sales doubled when they took over Nissan Hermanus in April 2018. Having the Ford and Nissan dealerships allowed them to offer potential customers a differentiated selection of car models with very little competitive overlap. Improved customer choice backed by strong after-sales service, which included upskilling the workshop to achieve Red Star status, was a winning formula.
But Tank and Wikus were not satisfied. “We had to do something distinctive to make a mark in town,” recalls Wikus. “We needed to be different. We didn’t want to be doing the same old, same old.”
From this conviction, the idea of the Mahala Promotion, of giving away a car to a lucky customer, was born. “The Mahala Promotion was a way of re-establishing Nissan Hermanus in the market,” said Wikus. “You never think you can give away a car. But, in doing so, people realised that we meant business.”
The first Mahala Promotion draw took place in February 2019. So successful was the six-month promotion for Nissan, that the idea was quickly applied to Ford, with the launch of the Pasella Promotion where a Ford Figo was given away in July 2019.
“We are definitely planning another Mahala and Pasella promotion that is going to be even bigger and will run for a year instead of just six months,” says Wikus.
Right from the beginning, the decision was taken to focus Ford’s and Nissan’s primary community involvement on two schools, Hermanus Primary School and Hermanus High School, as well as the golfing fraternity, a reflection of Tank’s lifelong passion for the sport.
Tank’s retirement at the end of April 2019 provided an opportunity to strategically re-examine the two businesses and prepare them for the future. From this, the idea of creating the Bright Auto Group, with Bright Ford Hermanus and Bright Nissan Hermanus as the two member companies, was born.
“We consider ourselves to be a group, which is a milestone in our lives,” said Wikus. “We wanted a company name we could use in our marketing efforts. We wanted something positive that speaks about the culture of the company and the team.”
And the future?
“My dream is to double again. That would be a goal for me personally. Nothing is impossible in life. We are going to have to think out-of-the-box. The industry is going to change. There will be more and more electrical vehicles, for example. ” said Wikus