Kenya’s Adaptable Auto Dealer
DT Dobie prides itself on an agile setup and customer-first service, now established as a reliable OEM partner both at home and in neighbouring countries
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Josh Hyland
Food security, affordable housing, accessible healthcare and modern manufacturing – in December 2017 President Kenyatta outlined his vision for Kenya’s development in the form of the Big Four Agenda.
Aligned with the East African nation’s Vision 2030, the programme seeks to improve the living standards of Kenyans, grow the economy and leave a lasting legacy.
For Ian Middleton, Managing Director of auto retailer DT Dobie, part of the French group CFAO which is owned by Toyota Tsusho, the Big Four initiative is cause for optimism.
Asked if Kenya’s auto market is an exciting space to be operating in, he replies confidently: “Yes, particularly now the government’s agenda is focusing on industrialisation and encouraging Kenya to manufacture more automotive vehicles and products for domestic use as well as export.”
Middleton joined DT Dobie in May 2017 having previously worked with CFAO in a former role.
“I worked with them previously in Nigeria and it was a return for me when the company had recently taken on VW as a brand,” he recalls.
“It was a new challenge. I also know DT Dobie well from previous interactions in various markets with various products and always liked their business and work ethic.
“I have been in the auto industry my entire career, and my father before me, specifically in Africa. I was sent to Africa early in my career to do some troubleshooting, and I saw this as a dynamic environment with different challenges.”
Adaptability and aftersales excellence
For Middleton, the ability to adapt to such challenges and fluctuations in the market has been a key ingredient to DT Dobie’s ongoing success story.
This has enabled it to remain relevant to the market and capitalise on new opportunities, all the while maintaining fruitful relationships with more traditional customer bases.
“In addition, our OEM partners are real partners,” says Middleton. “They support our business quickly and effectively as they realise what is good for DT Dobie means more business for themselves.”
This extends into aftersales service, the cornerstone of DT Dobie’s reputation for reliability and something which the MD values dearly.
“It is probably the most important part of the business,” he says. “Our customers trust us to take care of their prized assets, and we endeavour to do this by listening to them and responding with our ability to support long-term relationships as well as their short-term needs.
“This is a task made difficult by our proximity to the OEM factories, which means we need to predict parts supply and technical ability requirements before they are required.”
Such service excellence relies on a well-trained, happy and motivated team of employees.
Middleton points to an internal system provided by CFAO called Moov’up, which champions internal recruitment by allowing new positions to be offered to current employees before any external headhunting commences. Once recruited, an internal development programme ensures regular appraisals and open dialogue regarding individual staff development.
This will prove key to DT Dobie’s advancement in the future as the company seeks to expand.
Middleton outlines how the firm’s goals will be partly achieved through new product lines for Kenya and a recently opened plant in Rwanda.
“We have many more models in the pipeline, for both VW and Mercedes Commercial,” he adds. “Our newest facility in Kigali is fully operational but today can only supply the Rwandan market – our hopes for the Kenyan market are that we will have the ability to supply domestically and beyond.
“Profitability and a number one market share in all segments where we participate is always our ultimate goal, however, in 2019 we aim to continue to build on the platform we have already created with the new exciting model lineup we have coming.”
The MD concludes with a bold appraisal of what lies ahead for DT Dobie’s home nation.
“We are absolutely optimistic about the future for Kenya and indeed the region,” he says, “but we will keep an eye on the market to ensure that we are ready to adapt if necessary.”