In the motoring industry, there are only a handful of women in management and leadership roles at Dealership level. My joy at discovering the Imperial Toyota Kempton Park Dealership is headed by a woman, is surpassed only by the knowledge that this self-same woman is responsible for the start up of the well-known enterprise almost fifteen years ago.

Desiree Wiseman, the dynamic Dealer Principal, has watched this Dealership grow right from the start. In 2004, Desiree was part of the team that launched the Dealership, equipped with extensive knowledge in sales, training and virtual shopping, and armed with dedication and determination. Her hard work paid off, and the title of national Toyota Dealer of the Year for 2012 was bestowed on the bustling Dealership – the first time in 38 years that a female was awarded the title. Since then, the dealership has grown exponentially; Desiree’s commitment to the brand and the dealership is evident as she shares the evolution and changing trends in global motoring with me. The challenge of improving technology and our virtual society does not intimidate Desiree: instead, she is spurred on grow her team, and equip the dealership to meet these trends head-on. As a training and development fundi, Desiree is also responsible for producing many Dealer Principals from within her ranks, and shows a genuine delight in seeing people move up in the industry.

The philosophy underlying the Dealership holds that in giving the best of yourself to those around you, whether this is client or colleague, the quality of service you ultimately provide is impacted in a positive way. This is evident in the similarly positive and easy manner in which New Vehicle Sales Manager, Charlene Verburg, welcomes me. Being in the motoring industry for eleven years, Charlene’s retelling of her introduction to Vehicle Sales leaves me with the distinct impression that this woman knows what it means to take charge and step up to the plate. Charlene believes that by putting herself in her clients shoes (and treating clients the way she would want to be treated) is the reason for her success. Initially having a rather neutral opinion to the Toyota brand, Charlene was won over by the vehicles and the reliable, consistent quality which it represented. Falling in love with the Fortuner herself, Charlene summarises this incredible vehicle by saying that when sitting in driver’s seat, you feel empowered, strong and capable, and that this is something woman sorely need in our society.

Finally I am introduced to the Fotuner, through the friendly and warm introduction of Sales Representative Ivan van der Schyff, and invaluable member of the team. With extensive experience in sales, and fitting in with the passionate, client-focussed spirit of the dealership, Ivan is the ideal guide to this popular SUV. The new Toyota Fortuner has shown to be the recurring choice amongst families seeking both SUV luxury and off-roading capabilities, and I enjoyed the 4.0 V6 version for a trial run.

The sleek, streamlined body shape is still fresh and relevant. The Fortuner is attractive and gives the impression of sophisticated confidence in its own abilities. I personally love the way the front of the vehicle feels so familiar, yet the rear has a brand new striking shape with a more refined look that – to those unfamiliar with the Fortuner and its forerunners – piques your interest as to whether this is in fact, the ideal hybrid between a traditional utility vehicle and a luxury family van.

The interior oozes luxury, with superior finishes and intricate stitching detail. Seats, windows and mirrors are all electronically controlled and conveniently shape to your needs; similarly, audio controls, communication devices and information display controls are situated in the steering wheel. New features mix with the standard luxuries from its forerunner – including climate control, reverse camera audio visual navigation system and 7 inch touchscreen with DVD capabilities in the 4.0 variant (great for families with smaller kids). The boot door opens and closes at the touch of a button from the driver’s seat, and boasts an incredible amount of storage space, which expands even more with the rear seats folded down – I envision easy, hassle-free road trips with loads of packing space with the third road seats folded down.

The engine growls to life and at take-off is wonderfully responsive. This variant has a 6-speed automatic transmission which transitions smoothly and adjusts almost intuitively to my urging. Kicking out 175 KW of power at 5000 rpm, one would assume two things: firstly, that on harsh off-road terrain this vehicle is a beast, and two, that fuel consumption would be horrific. Whilst being right on the first count, I noted an average of around 12 litres to every 100 kilometres. With such features as Hill Assist Control to prevent roll backs and the full scope of 4×4 capabilities, the Fortuner is more than able to hold its own in tough conditions. As for its off-roading reputation, the Fortuner holds its head high with improved torsional and bend rigidity due a redeveloped frame – this not only speaks to its off-road prowess, but also adds to the vehicles safety (which is already impressive with 7 airbags and an array of vehicle stability controls and an advanced anti-theft system).

Sitting high in the driver’s seat, I found the manoeuvring of the vehicle in and out of tough traffic to be a little nerve-wracking initially. The Fortuner feels very large and intimidating, although this seems to be standard procedure for me and the bigger vehicles. On the plus side, the Fortuner offers a quiet in-cabin experience and the confidence one has when reigning in a powerful engine that you could unleash when needed. The Fortuner indeed does set off with panther-like eagerness when floored, and I can only imagine that same eagerness when clawing its way up a mountain path and crunching over rocks. Charlene was right – I do feel strong, confident and capable behind the wheel.

The Dealership seeks to provide the local community with the best quality vehicle for each client’s unique budget. With this in mind, Toyota Kempton Park also prides itself on their Used Cars department, which strives to present used cars with new car flair and attention to detail, under the capable management of Louis Jordaan.

As I wrap up my visit to the dealership, I am struck by something Charlene mentioned to me earlier on in the day. The one reason why this brand is close to her heart is because Toyota has gone above and beyond to be involved in charities and various organisations that seek to give back to the public. Believing that it is important to uphold the ethic of giving back to the community, Charlene found a family in the brand, and in the Dealership itself. To check out this Dealership for yourself, here is the link to their website: https://www.imperialtoyota.co.za/vehicle/dealer/imperial-toyota-kempton-park

 

By Desh Bechan