Celebrating the young rising stars in the SA automotive industry

23 June 2021 - 14:08
Tshegofatso Naume Ntabane, market intelligence assistant manager at Nissan.
Tshegofatso Naume Ntabane, market intelligence assistant manager at Nissan.
Image: Supplied

Join us as we profile some of the youthful movers and shakers of the motoring world. From insights on how to improve the sector to key views on matters such as electrification, the future of mobility looks bright.

Tshegofatso Naume Ntabane

Age: 27

Job title: Market intelligence assistant manager at Nissan     

Background: Market intelligence is a heavily data-driven occupation. I see the role of market intelligence as the middle man between the organisation and the market. At a high level, the market cuts across economic outlook, customers, competitors and other stakeholders’ groups which are important to the seamless running of the organisation. Having a 360º vision of all these elements is an important aspect that feeds into the overall business strategy. 

Talk us through an average day in your role: I work with different sets of data to understand the market, our competition and, most importantly, our customers. I also deep dive into historical and current trends that could be driving the market, making it simpler to forecast and understand the driving forces in the market. 

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: I have a strong belief the customer is the driving force behind any business and I am always amazed at what we can interpret from raw data, including the many ways in which the data can be used to make better-informed business decisions. Knowing the work that I do contributes to important decision-making processes for the organisation is immensely rewarding. 

What about the challenges?: Working with numbers, raw or silos data requires focus. The type of industry I am in is very fast-paced and decisions are constantly being made. Sometimes there are urgent requests which require accurate data analysis to assist stakeholders in decision-making. At this point the pressure piles on and it is important to remain focused so important information is not missed. Although this is a challenge, the rush of having to produce my best work on limited timelines is part of the excitement that comes with the job.  

Where to next?: Local or global? Hahaha! I look forward to my continued growth within Nissan. it gratifies me to work for an organisation that invests in the youth through talent management strategies and local/international upskilling opportunities. Having the opportunity to work at a cross-functional level, I am exposed to different areas of the business, which has piqued my interest. At heart, I am a numbers girl, so I am lenient to growth in that space. It is safe to say I have my eye on branching out into finance and economics as a career. 

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?:  I am a brand loyalist. I currently drive the Nissan Micra Active 2017 model and in a few years I will be driving the new Nissan Navara.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?: The opportunity is in the deployment of more technology in the customer journey, to understand and enhance the experience the customer has of our brand. At Nissan we have started this journey with wonderful innovations such as Shop@Home, digital financing solutions, to mention a few, but certainly more can and should be done.

Tirelo Mashiloane, demand planning manager at Toyota.
Tirelo Mashiloane, demand planning manager at Toyota.
Image: Supplied

Tirelo Mashiloane

Age: 27

Job title: Demand planning manager at Toyota

Background: Engineering and technology management

Talk us through an average day in your role: I manage the Toyota dealer allocation process to ensure an equitable supply of Toyota vehicles to all dealers. I monitor the dealers’ performance and visibility of supply to the dealer network in terms of vehicle pipeline management. I also effectively act as the communication conduit and provide feedback to the dealer network regarding the supply of vehicles.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: I get to make a difference in dealers’ lives. I’m in constant contact with dealers and I assist them with struggle points on a daily basis. I find this extremely rewarding at the end of the day. When someone says, “thank you so much for your assistance, you made a customer smile”, it makes it all worthwhile.

What about the challenges?: My work is quite dynamic and I get challenges every day so I learn something new every day. I touch base with different departments and have an understanding of how other departments work. In this agile environment, I find the back and forth debates with colleagues and resolving dealer problems quite thrilling.

Where to next?: I would love to get a training opportunity in Japan, learn from the source. Being in a new and different environment could be quite exciting.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?:  I drive the Hilux Double Cab 2.8GD6 Legend in the exciting Oxide Bronze colour. I love the Lexus RX in Grey, especially in 450 hybrid guise and in less than five years from now, I see myself driving that beauty of a car.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?:  I would love to see more hybrid vehicles on the road which are more environmentally -friendly, but due to the lack of governmental support this hasn’t materialised. Fortunately, when we launch Corolla Cross later this year, it will definitely cast the spotlight on this new technology. The gradual change from hybrid to electric in the future is the ultimate goal and I’m so glad to be with a company like Toyota which is so heavily invested in this journey towards carbon neutrality.

Salusiwe Qomfo, brand consultant at Volkswagen.
Salusiwe Qomfo, brand consultant at Volkswagen.
Image: Supplied

Salusiwe Qomfo

Age: 24

Job title: Brand consultant at Volkswagen

Background: I was born and bred in Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth). I studied BCom Marketing (Business Management and Industrial Psychology) at Nelson Mandela University and completed my honours degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. I started my career at Volkswagen in 2019 in their graduate programme as a rental sales coordinator. I then took up a role as a dealer sales analyst where I was an analytical resource for sales and marketing. My current role is in marketing as a brand consultant.

Talk us through an average day in your role: In a typical day, I answer queries about campaigns and provide marketing assets and information to assist the dealer network in their marketing communication activities. I am also be responsible for approving dealer content and providing our agencies with creative input and approvals for  campaign roll outs. This would also be the case for virtual reality content – briefing, inputs and approvals. A typical day would also involve regular strategy and planning meetings with the team.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: There are a number of rewarding moments in my occupation, the first being the ability to see an idea come to life and watching it materialise. Another is knowing I am part of something bigger than myself which is a global brand and one that is also a big part of SAs history and culture. Lastly but definitely not least is being able to support the dealer network and seeing the impact of my contribution in reaching their marketing objectives.

What about the challenges?: The industry is very dynamic and fast paced. No two days are ever the same which I quite like but it can be a challenge at times.

Where to next?: There is still so much to learn in my current role. I’d like to continue learning as much as I can and enjoy the journey.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?: I currently drive a Polo 1.0 Highline. This is a tricky question as we’ll have new and exciting models out by that time, but I’d say a T-Roc R-line.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?: The perception of electric mobility and the benefits of going electric. I’d do that through practical marketing demonstrations of the benefits in creative and memorable ways. As well as dispelling some of the false pre-conceptions that may exist.

Jules Mitouard, digital strategy and CRM manager at Stellantis.
Jules Mitouard, digital strategy and CRM manager at Stellantis.
Image: Supplied

Jules Mitouard

Age: 25

Job title: Digital strategy and CRM manager at Stellantis

Background: Business school master and three years’ experience PSA HQ (France) last year as executive assistant of DS CEO

Talk us through an average day in your role: My day starts with monitoring the performance of our nine brands (Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Opel, Peugeot and Mopar) following the main KPIs – website visits, lead generation, finance applications, leads sales and so on. Depending on the performance I may need to tweak campaigns, offers, creative, channel and so on. The call centre is next. I need to ensure they focus on the right areas for the day (whether following up on or cleaning the new leads). From there, my day is filled with ongoing projects, meetings and implementations. Data analysis is a constant and I am always looking for new ways to improve business performance. I am also involved in the creation of presentations – whether for HQ, internal, dealers or partners, so my day is never dull. While my daily focus might vary, the end result remains constant – increase revenue.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the results, especially when they arise from proactive ideas and new projects and partnerships. What is even nicer is that I need to understand most of the company business to action accordingly – meaning  I am in touch with (almost) every team in the company from marketing and communication to sales, product and network.

What about the challenges? : It can be tricky working with the different parties. Results are not always as good as you expected. I guess the biggest challenge for me is that I need to learn to be patient. Not everything happens overnight and sometimes it takes time before you see the results of your work.

Where to next?: I recently arrived in SA. I believe I will stick around a little longer.  

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?: I am driving a Citroen C5 Aircross. I would say that in five years (if I am no longer on a company car policy) I would like to drive a DS 3 Crossback (not available in SA).

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?What impressed me initially is that everyone has a great knowledge around the automotive industry, not only on product but also on the groups and the history of the brands. Hence why brand loyalty in the country is huge. However, while being a positive it can also prevent people from being objective and open-minded. It’s as if you are a Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs supporter. No matter how good the opposition is, the supporter will always believe Pirates are the best – even if they lose all their games – and that the others clubs are not worth his time. I guess it is the OEMs challenge to change how people view their brand and their products. In terms of the future, electric cars are the fastest growing segment globally. Unfortunately, SA lacks the infrastructure that will allow OEMs to bring electric cars to the country. Government needs to remove the barriers preventing the implementation of electric cars – allowance on price, availability of charging points. As the automotive industry is more and more likely to follow European/Asian/American rules globally, the country needs to prepare and be ready for this change already happening in the rest of the world.

Nthato Ntsoko, government affairs coordinator IMG-Africa at Ford.
Nthato Ntsoko, government affairs coordinator IMG-Africa at Ford.
Image: Supplied

Nthato Ntsoko

Age: 27

Job title: Government affairs coordinator IMG-Africa at Ford

Background: Born and raised in Wattville, Benoni. I was brought up by a single mother who was a teacher by profession. I spent much of my time in the company of my grandparents. Growing up in such an environment has taught me to be modest, patient and resilient. I have Bachelor’s degree in Political Science complemented by an Honours degree in International Relations.

Talk us through an average day in your role: I strategically engage with officials at all levels of government, including industry stakeholders in markets across the African continent, to be part of the solution on key public policy issues affecting the automotive industry. I also lead efforts to align Ford’s external policy priorities and objectives with the needs of the company’s business plans.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: I have a front row seat to industry critical topics and get to drive change from conception to implementation especially in areas of international trade, the environment, technology, taxation and infrastructure.

What about the challenges?: My role requires one to navigate around complexities while doing a thorough assessment of issues and getting support from stakeholders. The challenge is always around influencing the outcomes, often requiring strategic timing and diplomacy and in parallel being agile and adaptive to moving priorities.

Where to next?: Being a part of the youth demographic, I see myself basking in the endless possibilities, not waiting for perfect moments but finding moments and making them perfect. 

What do you see yourself driving five years from now?: I hope to drive an electric vehicle that is locally produced.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how? The industry in SA can improve within the areas of transformation, localisation and deepening value addition. I believe a lot can be done on tackling barriers and unlocking new opportunities for emerging entrants. It would need a coordinated and streamlined approach between government and private players that grows and enhances the capabilities of black-owned suppliers within the sector.

Neo B Baloyi, operations accounting analyst at Ford.
Neo B Baloyi, operations accounting analyst at Ford.
Image: Supplied

Neo B. Baloyi

Age: 25

Job title: Operations accounting analyst at Ford

Background: Started working at Ford in March 2020 on the Young Professionals Programme as part of the operations accounting team. I was appointed as an analyst for the team in March 2021.

Talk us through an average day in your role: I never really have the same routine daily as my job requires me to interact with stakeholders of the company at any given time. This includes having meetings with suppliers and internal stakeholders to discuss invoice queries and ensure suppliers are paid on time, having meetings with the bank to monitor the acquisition, issuing and control of corporate credit cards and managing the relationship between credit card users and the bank, performing accurate billing of vehicle prices in our invoicing system, identifying Treasury receipts that are to be applied to receivables and submitting customer billings and processing journal entries

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: Having to deal with new issues daily means I get to learn something new every day and helps me avoid being complacent. I am naturally an introvert so having to deal with stakeholders has helped me step out of my comfort zone. This also means I get to improve my people skills every day.

What about the challenges?: Having to tackle new tasks each day means that I must respond to high volumes of e-mails and provide different solutions and direction to resolve queries. This often creates a bit of pressure. But I’d like to believe  I am built Ford tough!

Where to next?: I am studying towards a CGMA designation with CIMA. Working at  a multinational organisation like Ford Motor Company, the opportunities are endless. I’m keeping an open mind.

What do you see yourself driving five years from now?:  I see myself driving a Ford Mustang GT and the latest Ford Ranger.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how? Increase the quantity of auto components made locally to meet the ever-growing demand for vehicles manufactured locally. This could perhaps be done through local outsourcing/joint ventures or setting up specialised manufacturing plants.

Callon Locke, product manager Automobiles at Honda.
Callon Locke, product manager Automobiles at Honda.
Image: Supplied

Callon Locke

Age: 25

Job title: Product manager Automobiles at Honda

Background: I started my career in the automotive industry at 22 as a junior product planner straight out of university. Growing up I’ve always been extremely passionate about motor cars an by chance I ended up working in the industry. I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing.

Talk us through an average day in your role: There are no average days. Each new project is like a marathon on its own, and each day is one step closer to the finish line. My daily role is to coordinate each department from sales to aftersales, product and marketing to ensure the successful introduction of new products to the market.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: Bringing a new product to market takes years of hard work and planning, from initially selecting the specification of a new model to the first unit being sold years later. The feeling of fulfilment, knowing I helped put a smile on a customer’s face with a product I planned  is incredibly rewarding. Not to mention that I get to drive new products before anybody else.

What about the challenges?: Every day presents its own challenges, but the  challenge I deal with on an ongoing basis is anticipating what our competitors will do next, and making sure our products remain competitive and relevant in the market.

Where to next?: Who knows? Life has its way of throwing curve balls. One thing’s for sure, I’m ambitious, motivated and driven by success. I will continue to build my career in the automotive industry and strive to become an expert in my field.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now? My daily drive is a Honda Civic Sport. Its sleek and fast and it’s a Honda. Without a doubt, a Civic Type-R. That’s what I’ll be driving five years from now.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?: The rate of electrification and general acceptance of alternative energy vehicles in SA is dismal in comparison to many other countries of similar standing. It is an initiative that requires engagement from all industry stakeholders and is a subject I am actively involved in as product manager at Honda.

Lukho Nomala, parts programme co-ordinator at Audi.
Lukho Nomala, parts programme co-ordinator at Audi.
Image: Supplied

Lukho Nomala

Age: 28

Job title: Parts programme co-ordinator at Audi

Background: I was born in East London. I went to the University of Johannesburg and studied Bcom Accounting Sciences and completed my honours in Bcom Financial Management. My formal employment kicked off in 2018 when I was selected as part of the Graduate Programme at Volkswagen Group SA. I was chosen to join the Audi SA team as part of my 12-month training and exposure. I then took on a permanent role within the Four Rings a year later.

Talk us through an average day in your role: I identify and keep track of our current parts and accessory stock levels to ensure we have enough stock within the pipeline. I also track all of our orders from customers and monitor trends and patterns. I interact with Audi dealerships on certain customer queries, and ensure they have the necessary support. I also manage and identify product gaps with our parts and accessories portfolio as well as track our parts sales to ensure we hit our monthly targets.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: Having a background in finance, I enjoy the concept of finding new avenues to practice my entrepreneurial thinking and the parts and accessories portfolio allows me that favour. I also enjoy the possibilities my role provides in understanding local market trends.

What about the challenges?: Ensuring I am able to deliver products to customers on time and support our dealers in fulfilling order commitments to keep their systems and activity running. At times, there may be unforeseen issues that hamper this process. I pride myself in delivering results so when the outcome is not according to my plan, it isn’t an ideal situation and presents a challenge to navigate.

Where to next?: I am looking to grow in my current role while also perfecting and growing the portfolio ito ensure satisfaction across the board from our  stakeholders.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?:  Working for the Audi brand, which is part of the broader Volkswagen Group, I am driving a Volkswagen T-Cross. I would love to drive an Audi RSQ3 Sportback.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?: We want our future generations to live in an environment that is not polluted and toxic. The direction of electric vehicles should definitely be the future.

Jabulisa Zulu, business development manager at Kia.
Jabulisa Zulu, business development manager at Kia.
Image: Supplied

Jabulisa Zulu

Age: 28

Job title: Business development manager at Kia

Background: BCom Financial Accounting, post-graduate Business Administration, and MBA up next! Born and raised in Johannesburg before leaving to attend university at North West University. My career began in automotive insurance as a graduate. I moved to Kia SA in 2017.

Talk us through an average day in your role: My role is to drive dealer development. This typically involves analysing business activity, strategy and performance to provide guidance and policy to achieve sales targets and ultimately drive market share. Before Covid-19, most of my time would be spent away from the office and visiting  dealerships across the country. The pandemic has brought about new challenges which have led to more of these engagements occurring virtually.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: Working in an industry that I am passionate about. My team and I are all petrolheads and have a genuine passion for all things motor. Combining this passion with hard work throughout the year to ultimately achieve a goal makes the role rewarding. The most rewarding aspect is helping others, particularly dealer partners, to achieve their goals and grow in their respective roles.

What about the challenges?: The challenges we face daily allow us as a team to brainstorm, debate, creatively solve new and unique obstacles and ultimately grow as a team and as individuals. Being in an experienced team has helped me gain valuable insight in this regard.

Where to next?: Being in the industry for almost five years has thought me a lot, most importantly that there still a lot to learn. My goal is to obtain my MBA and then I will look to climb the automotive ladder. 

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?:  I currently the award-winning Kia Sportage. I love the new Sorento and Kia is constantly adding new products to a growing range. The EV6 is one I have in my personal wish-list.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?:  Improving legislation around importing electric vehicles would drastically increase the feasibility for OEMs in SA to explore more EV vehicles in future.

Sindiswa “Mabhebeza” Dladla, technician at Jaguar Land Rover.
Sindiswa “Mabhebeza” Dladla, technician at Jaguar Land Rover.
Image: Supplied

Sindiswa “Mabhebeza” Dladla

Age: 24 

Job title: Technician at Jaguar Land Rover

Background: I was born and raised in the small town of Adams Mission south of Durban, and I turned to the automotive trade under motivation of my late father, who was also a technician. From a young age I was exposed to the inner workings of cars and I spend free time at the race track, and my professional time gaining mechanical experience in a state-of-the-art workshop at Jaguar Land Rover Durban.

Talk us through an average day in your role: I consider my role more as a customer satisfaction expert. Whether a vehicle comes in for service or repair, all work must be performed timeously and adhere to “customer first” principles.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: There are a lot of processes to go through when working on modern vehicles and I place special attention on ensuring everything is done correctly.

What about the challenges?: It goes without saying the motor industry is male-dominated and I am extremely proud to challenge the perceptions associated with females in this space. I hope my successes will inspire other young women, and that this industry will offer more opportunities for those like me going forward.

Where to next?: A natural career progression for me would be to move up inside the Jaguar Land Rover dealership workshop environment, and I aspire to be a service Manager or foreman one day. I would, however, prefer the title of forewoman.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?: I currently drive a 2018 VW Polo 1.6, but I’m aiming high to drive a blue Range Rover Sport SVR in the next five years.

Phemelo Mogale, customer experience and business development centre specialist at Mercedes-Benz.
Phemelo Mogale, customer experience and business development centre specialist at Mercedes-Benz.
Image: Supplied

Phemelo Mogale

Age: 25

Job title: Specialist, customer experience and business development centre at Mercedes-Benz

Background: Born and raised in Rustenburg, North West. Studied BA Strategic Marketing and Corporate Communications at the University of Johannesburg in 2016. Intern junior  account manager at Creative Agency and then Mercedes-Benz SA Graduate Development Programne. Absorbed into the business as retail marketing support and last year promoted to a specialist overseeing the customer experience and business development centre

Talk us through an average day in your role: The business is data-driven and steered by customer insights and behaviours which my team is at the heart of. I have constant alignment discussions with the business development centre team leads and agents to provides operational support across e-commerce, contact centre escalations and queries relating to sales and marketing.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: I’m surrounded by the most engaged and  passionate people who inspire me every day. The flow of communication, eagerness to try new things and take on new projects has been the best way and place  I could have started my career. The business is big enough for me to continuously develop and grow in but equally stimulating enough for me to keep making advances in and expanding on my knowledge and craft.

What about the challenges?: Covid-19 has obviously redefined what we all thought were challenges back then and also amplified most challenges calling for innovation and agility.

Where to next?: I’m still pretty stimulated by my current environment but I am interested in one day being involved in fields that bring African people, businesses, brands, products and services to the world. I think something like that will definitely tick all my boxes for fulfilment, intrigue, privilege and passion.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?: A Mercedes-Benz A200. I shamelessly want to have a brief stint with a performance coupé or hot hatch.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?: Customer services and the communication and experiences relating to it. From a longevity perspective, most of your future customers are already in our workshops. Pleasant experiences can only bring them back.

Wendy Luthuli, SAP ABAP developer at Isuzu.
Wendy Luthuli, SAP ABAP developer at Isuzu.
Image: Supplied

Wendy Luthuli

Age: 26

Job title: SAP ABAP developer at Isuzu

Background: I am one of four children, born and raised in Durban. I moved to Gqeberha in 2015 to pursue my studies at the Nelson Mandela University. I hold a BTech in Information Technology (Software Development) and with the aid of Isuzu Motors SA I have completed the Management Development Programme at the NMU Business School. I joined Isuzu via a Graduate-In-Training Programme where I was placed in the IT department and groomed for my current position.

Talk us through an average day in your role: The ABAP development work I do directly impacts the performance of Isuzu Motors SA. My role as an SAP ABAP developer is to continuously enhance our SAP system, which is the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System Isuzu uses for business processes. My duties include debugging to identify the root causes of the problems in code, writing and testing code and passing the task on to our business analysts for thorough testing.

What makes your occupation so rewarding?: One of the challenges in ABAP developing is that I learn something new almost daily. Some tasks are more challenging than others, which push my problem-solving skills to greater heights and having these developments made for different functional areas boosts my process knowledge for those areas and my understanding of the automotive industry.

Where to next?: My goal is to attain an ABAP development certification and expand myself by learning skills that will prepare me for a position as an ABAP programmer/analyst where I will be performing the combined duties of an ABAP developer and a business analyst. My long-term goal is to upskill myself and get into a leadership position, impacting the statistics of women in IT positively.

What do you drive currently and what do you see yourself driving five years from now?:  Interestingly for someone working in the automotive industry I don’t own a car, but within the next five years I plan to drive an Isuzu MU-X.

Which areas of the SA automotive industry would you like to improve and how?:  SA is generally behind in technological developments and this delays the advancement of our automotive industry. Introducing IT in high school and making it as significant a subject as mathematics would help bridge a gap and prepare young minds for a digital future. We need to warm up to technology and have modules for big data and machine learning introduced early and taught throughout IT courses. 


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