New commercial sales director at Bridgestone South Africa (BSAF) Anton Wessels’ excitement is palpable as he prepares to climb a daunting mountain in 2021, strengthening market share against competitors.
Despite the Pretoria High Court ruling against the dumping of cheap imported tyres in 2010, they have continued to make their way into the country, wreaking havoc in the local industry. In a recent announcement by the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers, an estimated 60% of tyres on South African roads are illegal, shrinking the already competitive legitimate market.
This, along with an already strained South African economy and the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, is the environment into which Wessels begins his tenure as commercial sales director. Wessels was appointed into the new role from 1 November 2020.
“The reality is that there isn’t much I can do about the economy, so my focus is on our people, business processes and finding ways of assisting our customers through these challenging times,” he says. “Being part of a global organisation definitely helps in better understanding what to expect and improve planning based on prior learning, executing on what has worked in similar markets that went into this crisis before us.”
Wessels isn’t entirely new to the business and had already joined BSAF in February 2020, in the role of Cross-Border Executive, where he has achieved significant sales growth and led the profitable turnaround of the company’s cross boarder operations under tough economic circumstances.
“As I have been getting to know the business before taking up my new role, my top priority during the pandemic was protecting our staff and improving communication channels, while establishing the most effective ways of serving customers,” he says. “By focusing intently on key business principles and disciplines, we’ve been able to deliver sustained results, even in the worst of the lockdowns.”
Wessels says that even during the pandemic, the unregulated entry of cheap imports into the market has put a strain on the local industry, as financially strained consumers are enticed to buy poor quality tyres. However, he believes this can be overcome by providing holistic solutions and leveraging the superior strength of premium tyres, addressing the safety risks of using sub-standard products.
“While many other brands will focus on price, our approach has been on offering our customers a total solutions package and focusing on total cost of ownership that often results in long-term savings,” he says. “As road transport and travel becomes increasingly dangerous, safety is a growing concern and premium products have proven themselves beyond the capability of many of the cheap imports and other competitor products.
“We also believe we are at the forefront of introducing more technologically advanced product offerings, such as the AI-powered Webfleet fleet management solution, which supports transporters to better manage their vehicles and reduce costs through navigation, digital data, and live analytics,” he says.
Wessels holds over 25 years’ experience in the automotive tyre industry and has served in various senior leadership roles, most notably as the Group Commercial Director at TiAuto Investments. He brings a wealth of experience in leading sales teams and has a solid track record of delivering results.
In his new role, he will oversee all commercial sales activities in the Truck and Bus Radial (TBR), Off-the-road (OTR) and Agri markets within Bridgestone Southern Africa. His key focus will be maximising all opportunities for sales and market share growth, channel expansion, developing BSAF’s brand promise with customers and championing employee engagement and development across the commercial business unit.
“Wessels is a highly motivated and driven individual,” says BSAF CEO Jacques Fourie. “He is passionate about everything to do with wheels and is a strong leadership addition to our team. We look forward to working with him to achieve our business strategy over the coming years.”
Outside of work, Wessels enjoys long motorcycle rides, mountain biking and motor car racing. He is a strong believer in living a healthy and balance life. Relaxation time is enjoyed at his Pretoria home with his wife Hayley and 13-year-old daughter Kayley.