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Africa Outlook

automotive
tyres
retail
South Africa

HI-Q

Gaining Traction

Hi-Q is both capitalising upon and helping to uphold the slipstream of innovation in SA’s automotive market, bringing quality products to the masses via its trusted, specialised team 

Writer: Jonathan Dyble  |  Project Manager: Josh Hyland

 

South Africa’s automotive industry is at a crossroads.

Faced with new regulations calling for CO2 emission reductions, fluctuating exchange rates and shifts in consumer behaviour, combined with an economic climate that has been challenging of late, the sector is faced with a number of challenges.

In spite of these, however, many entities still embody the industry’s traditionally innovative characteristics, attempting to explore new opportunities and bring diversified solutions to market.

Hi-Q, South Africa’s number one tyre retailer, is at the heart of this. 20 years in the making, its success lies in a deep understanding of the needs of customers and a knowledge of market trends, often helping to find diamonds in the rough.

“The automotive industry in South Africa has a very mature aftermarket component with many suppliers boiling the same water,” explains Managing Director Sean Harrison. “This creates opportunity for more flexible companies to offer unique bespoke solutions to their target markets, thus differentiating themselves.”

A franchise network that has expanded to more than 100 dealerships across the country, Hi-Q’s rapid growth and reputation is built upon a diversified multi-brand, multi-product offering, its portfolio including tyres, tyre related services, shocks, brakes, batteries and exhausts.

Its customers are the beneficiaries of this approach, readily positioned to access the latest developments from both established and emerging market players, including those that come from Hi-Q itself.

“We’re a one-stop shop experience for tyres and around the wheel products,” Harrison states, “and back this up with our own solutions such as TyreSurance – a road hazard guarantee that protects the Hi-Q customer against unplanned road damage.

“Hi-Q is the only tyre fitment network in South Africa that offers this on all brands of tyres sold. Tyres purchased through our network have a two-year period under which if they incur accidental damage a credit is passed to the customer for tread not used.”

This position as the high street showcase of innovative tyre solutions, providing customers with the widest choice of brands and products, is crucial to the firm’s reputation.

Yet it is not the only trait that has come to characterise the business. It is similarly proud of its promise of providing expert yet friendly service – a combination that Harrison himself describes as a winning formula.

“The biggest differentiator for Hi-Q is the brand pyramid that we believe in,” he affirms.

“You can trust our friendly team who are passionate, around-the-wheel experts with genuine integrity and thorough professionalism to put the safety and convenience of our customers first.”

Indeed, this forms the basis of the company’s strapline, ‘the one you can trust’, which is further supported by the company’s status as the number one Icon Brand.

Harrison explains: “Hi-Q continually outperforms its competitors in the Tyre Fitment Centre category of the Icon Brands Survey – a survey conducted by an independent market researcher in South Africa seeking to define those brands to which South Africans are loyal, and where commitment is proven by those which ‘put their money where their mouth is’.

“This is the 10th year that Hi-Q has participated in the survey, and we’re delighted to have been voted number one for nine of these.”

Building a brand

Indeed, developing such a highly esteemed image doesn’t happen by chance.

It is owed to the hard work of all Hi-Q’s stakeholders, employees and partners alike in listening to and meeting the diverse range of demands that come with operating in the automotive environment.

“Supplier relationships are critical,” Harrison affirms, pointing to the latter.

“We as the franchisor go to great lengths to accredit our supplier partners based on stringent service level agreements that include service deliverables, price points and rebate structures. These rebates are invested into local, regional and national marketing initiatives promoting our wide range of brands and products, driving down the overall cost of marketing and increasing brand exposure for our suppliers – a true win-win scenario.”

The same can be said of the company’s workforce, Hi-Q reaping the benefits of what is an expert, highly specialised network of franchisees.

But how does the enterprise ensure that each of these representatives reflect and maintain its bold values? This crucial question is answered by an in-depth vetting procedure.

“We are always looking at new ways to expand the network,” Harrison affirms. “However, we must ensure the viability of current network partners. Potential Hi-Q franchisees go through a strict application process as a result, with criteria that includes, but is not limited to, location, demographics of the area, market dynamics, traffic flow and expansion possibilities.

“People are the cornerstone of our business. We look for individuals who have business acumen and entrepreneurial skills; those who are energetic team players.”

Employee development is also held in high regard. The firm supports each of its franchisee’s upskilling efforts by providing various training courses year after year, while associates are provided with individual development programmes and clearly structured, progressive career plans that help to bolster talent retention.

“Additionally, we search for new talent through our Graduate in Training initiative, where currently two university graduates are completing a two-year course in the view that they will eventually secure permanent employment with us,” the MD adds.

Driving forward

Combining dedicated franchise and staffing development initiatives, customer-centric product developments and an unrivalled market reputation, the future looks bright for Hi-Q.

Its ambitions include further expanding its network footprint, the enterprise looking to further build upon the dramatic growth experienced in the past two decades in an effort to garner a greater overall share of South Africa’s lucrative automotive market.

“We’re even exploring new business opportunities in select Southern African countries,” Harrison states, revealing unprecedented international aspirations. “Aside from our geographical remit, positioning ourselves to best leverage the potential of the fourth industrial revolution through integrated systems also remains a priority.

“Online retailing currently forms a small part of the aftermarket sector, for example, and is an area that is expected to grow as access to cheaper broadband is rolled out in South Africa.”

For all these reasons, the MD is able to deliver relative positivity in his concluding statements – something that’s been somewhat hard to come by in South Africa of late.

He affirms: “Realistically, we are cautiously optimistic in regard to growth potential of South Africa’s automotive industry. Indeed, our car parc is older than most car parcs in Europe. But this presents a growth opportunity in around the wheel services and related products.”