During March this year I was given the opportunity to meet with the team at Imperial Nissan East Rand Mall for the first time, and to also take the brand new Navara 4×2 for a test drive. Having driven and reviewed the Navara 4×4 previously, I was eager to see what the difference would be with the newly revamped 4×2.

Johan van Wyk, the experienced Dealer Principal for Imperial Nissan East Rand Mall, warmly welcomed me to the dealership last week. Starting out in 2002 as a Salesman for a Nissan dealership in Tzaneen, Johan moved up through the ranks quite quickly when he was asked to manage the same dealership a few short years later as Dealer Principal. With experience across big brands that include Ford and Mazda, Johan also assisted with the start-up and successful integration of a large-scale Nissan dealership in Klerksdorp, prior to taking on the Dealer Principal role here on the East Rand.

The excitement and challenging environment of this busting metropolitan dealership is what drives Johan to harness his skills and experience and apply it in such a way that the established client base are served more effectively. Calling himself a “platteland outjie” Johan’s humility and openness is very becoming, and encourages a sense of trust and transparency that I feel serves him well in terms of building relationships with clients. Noting that the people who work with him at the Dealership, as well as the people he does business with are assets to him, Johan highlights the importance of customer relationships as his underlying strategy. With a smile, Johan states that although times have changed and advances in technology means that marketing is done differently, the “game plan” as he calls it, remains the same; the idea that handing a vehicle over to a client must honour their investment and is paramount, regardless of what vehicle that is, is Johan’s philosophy.

I was particularly enthralled by Johan’s viewpoint on the complete package which this dealership offers – not limited to selling vehicles, the dealership also boasts a strong aftersales department and a workshop with four dedicated parts-sales vehicles that service most parts of Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and even Limpopo; deliveries to Zimbabwe and Botswana also form part of their after sales scope. Being willing to go the extra mile is what Johan believes is what makes this dealership successful. He summarises his philosophy by saying that the buying of a car can be seen only as a honeymoon, whereas the workshop and aftersales input is what sustains the hypothetical marriage.

Handing me over to the charismatic and knowledgeable Zander Gresse, I am initially surprised at the tender age of the New Vehicle Sales Manager. I find out very quickly why Zander has moved up to management so rapidly; here is a young man who started as a salesman, and was moved up to  management level after only a few months due to his incredible work ethic, his ability to work extremely hard and an innate ability to understand his product. Coming from the smaller setting of Klerksdorp, Zander stands out as a true petrolhead with a passion for cars and an even bigger enthusiasm for working with people.

Driven to perform and be the best in what he does, Zander does not believe in doing things by halves. He notes that he doesn’t give 120% effort in his daily routine, but insists on 200% in order to mobilise this dealership to grow and be recognised for their excellent products and services (with Dealer of the Year award as his end goal). When asked why he is so passionate about Nissan, he confidently notes that Nissan is the brand that covers all the niches in the market. With a vehicle to suit every need, every financial position, every image and every client-type, Zander summarises that the range of Nissan vehicles is all-encompassing with the best pricing options to boot. Further enhanced by the reputation of the brand for reliability and trustworthiness, Zander loves selling vehicles knowing there are rarely comebacks or dissatisfied clients. He also believes, like his DP, that repeat customers are born at their very first experience with the dealership. Zander is also clearly a team player, and notes that the sales team is comprised of many experienced individuals. With a great deal of coaching, consistency and aggressive training, this team have been equipped to be what he calls “unstoppable”.

Zander’s final addition to our visit tugged at my heart, because unlike any other dealership I have visited before, this dealership is actively trying to get involved in giving back to the community by making a difference where it is needed most: by striving to participate in charities and initiatives to aid the underprivileged community, Nissan East Rand want to mobilise themselves to change the lives of those less fortunate, through growing their own client base and being able to give back.

Senior Sales Executive Morne Mostert finally introduces me to the new Navara 4×2. As another team member with 15 years of experience, Morne’s passion for Nissan is the epitome of the tagline “Nissan excites”. The East Rand dealership is lively and jovial, and – I am told by a grinning Morne – often hosts braai’s and fun days for their clients and local community. His personal favourite Nissan vehicle is the very 4×2 he is releasing to me, and he concludes that the new Navara is “the whole package” – a sexy new design, a new chassis and build style and an all-new interior. At first glance, I am in agreement with his assessment, and must add that I love the striking, athletic look of the 2.3 litre LE 4×2 Automatic variant I am driving. 18-inch alloy wheels completes the “rugged” look perfectly.

The interior is smart and classy, with the optional leather-interior pack added. This variant also has the luxury of heated seats that adjust automatically in 8-directions. With high quality finishes in the cabin, and a well designed dashboard that is not overloaded with knobs and dials, the Navara hosts sufficient features on board to keep me happy. The steering wheel has user-friendly audio controls (and also adjusts for height and reach) and all the audio needs of this musically-inclined journalist are taken into consideration through Bluetooth connectivity, as well as aux and USB ports. The Navara also comes standard including SAT NAV with 3D mapping and integrated colour display with a touchscreen to make your journey’s hassle free.

With remote keyless entry and push-button start, the Navara sits comfortably and feels quite spacious in the front. Although I suspect the rear seats would be tight for three adults across, my 9 and 11 year old children were comfortable and had ample head and leg room in the back. As a family we loved the numerous cup-holders and storage areas available, with the two front cupholders located beneath the airconditioned air vents to keep your refreshments cool (my personal favourite touch).

At take-off, I find the Navara a little sluggish, but with the powerful 2.3 litre diesel engine kicking out 140 Kw of power and 450 Nm of torque, once the vehicle reaches cruising speed, the drive is unbelievably smooth and effortless (in fact, I found myself driving at faster-than-normal speeds without realising it). Cruise control, power-steering and a host of electronic stability features make the Navara a pleasure to drive, and the 5-link coil suspension kept bumps and jostles to a minimum. Furthermore, with driver and passenger front- and side-airbags, driver’s knee airbags and all-round curtain airbags (as well as a uniquely designed body) left me feeling safe and secure.

Hill Start Assist and Hill Decent Control, reverse camera on the rear-view mirror, ABS and EBD are but a few of the features this vehicle boasts. Having taken the new Navara on a game drive to test its capabilities, I was pleased with the handling and stability of the vehicle on both rough and urban terrain – Traction Control systems kept the tyres firmly grounded. The 7-speed automatic gearbox is silky smooth in its transitions and truthfully made me feel quite confident in its capabilities. Tipped at averaging around 7 litres per 100 kilometres fuel consumption, the Navara is generous on the mileage it can do before needing to refuel, for such a big vehicle.

Morne believes that the new Navara needs to be experienced personally to get a true picture of it’s worth: the popularity of the previous 4×4 model was testimony to the great contribution Nissan has for this segment. Having now upped their game by redesigning and  improving their offering, the 4×2 Navara is also better priced than most of the other vehicles in this segment, and better equipped than ever before.

Parking the Navara back at the Dealership (which I must add was easy despite it’s bulk), I conclude that the new Navara – with its confidence, superb ability and great new design – is symbolic of the Imperial Nissan East Rand Dealership, where the team is attentive and thorough, and incredibly well-versed on their products and services. Zander also informs me that the Used Cars division of the dealership have a strict quality assurance process that stipulates that only vehicle within their warranty period are sold as Used Cars. Zander emphasises that buying a used car from this dealership should be akin to buying a new one – each used car on the showroom floor is as close to new as possible, ensuring that the client is supplied with the best possible vehicle for their budget, whether that is new or used.

Anticipating an exciting 2018, Zander notes that there is a new Nissan Micra release in the pipeline, which he believes – with its new futuristic looks – will be a class-leader which he is excited to see launched.

For contact information for the Nissan East Rand dealership, as well as information on their available vehicles, follow the link: Imperial Nissan East Rand Mall

By Desh Bechan