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Happy anniversary, Iveco SA!

Flair and passion, as only the Italians could do it, combined with some hands-on, local gees, have driven Iveco’s South African journey over the past 25 years. GAVIN MYERS looks back in celebration.

It was a chap by the name of Dr Porelli who first introduced the Iveco brand to South Africa in 1993. The first vehicle to be sold was the Daily, which immediately found traction, and remains an exceptionally strong player in its segment today. The next step was to enter the bus business, in which Iveco South Africa has become a household name.

“It was a very good start,” says Martin Liebenberg, head of sales, Southern African Customs Union. “From humble beginnings we’ve introduced other products and today operate our own local assembly operation.”

Liebenberg explains that, over the years, there have been numerous critical factors that have contributed to the company’s success on local soil – in addition to the typical Italian passion injected into the company by
Dr Porelli…

The first of these, says Liebenberg, has always been technical innovation. “We bridged the technical divide many moons ago. This is in part because our local operation has always been privy to new products shortly after they have been launched in Europe,” he explains.

Then, there has been Iveco’s approach to its leadership and dealers. “There are no levels to our management structure, which increases our efficiency and allows clients a direct line into our business. The South African market is extremely relationship oriented, and our growing team of local staff, who have a personal, direct touch, is starting to have the desired effect.

“Likewise, although we employ a franchised dealer structure, our dealers are an extension of our company and also take it upon themselves to be hands-on with clients,” Liebenberg explains, adding that in future Iveco’s dealer network will see more dealers being grouped together to further increase their efficiency while boosting their entrepreneurial spirit.

In just 25 years, Iveco South Africa has gone from offering just a single model offering to a vehicle for almost any commercial need. The company plans to evaluate alternative powertrains from 2019.

In more recent times, the commencement of local production at the Iveco South Africa Works Rosslyn plant has given the company a large boost and a competitive advantage. Similarly, a modern, streamlined parts distribution centre in Midrand has contributed to raising its aftersales support to world-class standards.

“We service the entire right-hand drive market in Africa, from right here in SA,” Liebenberg attests.

Looking back does not drive future success, though. So, what does Iveco South Africa have planned for its future? Well, as in the past, a focus on introducing technological innovation will certainly play a part.

“Exploring the impact of compressed and liquified natural-gas power will be a big project for us next year. The decision has been made to begin testing these units locally; it is an entirely new game for us in South Africa, but we’ve had some encouraging enthusiasm from some local operators,” Liebenberg says.

Of course, the company will continue on its path of sustainable annual growth and, with it, the parallel expansion of the Rosslyn plant.

Summing up 25 years in the space of a single-article is not easy, but Liebenberg probably does it best when he says: “Twenty-five years is a massive accomplishment. These are exciting times for us, and we’re celebrating with all the Italian flair and passion that was injected into the brand when Dr Porelli took those first bold steps back in 1993.”

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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