~ To offer training, personally thanks staffers ~
PHILIPSBURG–Toyota Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Latin America and the Caribbean Region Steve St. Angelo visited St. Maarten this week to get a first-hand view of the progress of construction of Real Auto’s new state-of-the art building on Long Wall Road and to personally thank staffers for their efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Real Auto is the official Toyota dealership in St. Maarten.
St. Angelo told The Daily Herald during his visit to Real Auto on Tuesday that the Toyota brand can grow more in St. Maarten and indicated that Toyota will be offering training in several areas to upgrade Real Auto staffers’ skills.
St. Angelo also gave insight into Toyota’s strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean and how St. Maarten fits into this strategy.
“Our strategy is to grow in a very sustainable way, which means that we grow a little bit each and every year. We don’t go crazy and try to grow too fast, because when you do that you have an unstable base,” he said.
“We try to provide great customer experiences and try to develop customers who become fans of Toyota, and we do that by providing exciting new products and, as you’ve seen over the last few years, we are bringing a lot more different products with newer technology and better specifications.
“St. Maarten, like all [our markets in the Caribbean – Ed.] is very important and St. Maarten is an area which I think Toyota can grow more as we introduce new types of vehicles like we just did with the [Toyota] Rush, which fits perfectly in St. Maarten and most of the Caribbean countries.
We are going to introduce a new Rav 4 in the future which is off our TNGA [Toyota’s New Global Architecture] platform, which provides a lower gravity for the vehicle and which improves the rides and handling. And we have a lot of new exciting products coming in the future.”
High on St. Angelo’s agenda for his visit, his first to St. Maarten, was to personally meet and thank Real Auto employees for their efforts after the devastating hurricanes of 2017.
“The purpose of my visit here today is to see the good people here in St. Maarten, especially at the Toyota dealership, since Hurricane Irma hit. I wanted to come since the day it hit because I wanted to help. The dealers and distributors throughout all of Latin America and the Caribbean wanted to help our team here and our family here.
“Today, the purpose is to see the workers and to thank them for having a never-give-up attitude and to show my appreciation for them taking care of the customers, especially servicing the vehicles, because many of those vehicles needed service quick from the damage caused by the hurricane.”
St. Angelo said positive discussions had been held regarding training of Real Auto staffers. “We are talking about providing some new training and better training for technicians and salespeople. Our cars are becoming more complicated because of all the safety devices and high technology that we are putting in them. We are offering to give them good training and we are talking about other types of things.”
He also analysed the services offered and looked at the dealership to ensure that the “best in town” processes are being followed and that customers in St. Maarten are treated “the best” and have “the best experience” when purchasing the brand. “We are talking about doing many things together to improve the whole experience for our customers in St. Maarten.”
St. Angelo said he had spent some time on the design of the new building, which he stressed “is going to be fantastic.” With the new building, Real Auto is set to raise the bar in the car dealership industry in the country. The new building is being constructed at a cost of US $4 million, construction is expected to be completed by October of this year and the new building opened in November.
He said Toyota had reached out to assist the dealership after Irma.
“We offered anything that they wanted. We offered them tools, equipment, training and we also pooled many vehicles to help the country recover – for example HiLux vehicles. We went to countries like Paraguay, Argentina and other countries and asked for their support to cancel their orders and send those orders directly to St. Maarten. We did that and that helped in the recovery.”
He was happy to note that Real Auto staffers are not just dwelling on the past. “They are moving forward and they are not only looking at two or three years from now,” he said, adding that everyone is looking ahead and working towards making the Toyota dealership “the best car company in St. Maarten and we want people to love Toyota.”
St. Angelo said St. Maarten is a “beautiful” country. “The people are very nice. They are happy people and I just wanted to wish them all the best.”
Real Auto owner and Managing Director Karl Nassief said that while Hurricanes Irma and Maria had dealt Real Auto a blow, it offered an opportunity to retool, rethink and look ahead. He said the new building will be a great facility for customers and staff, and will help to propel the company to be a good dealership to serve the people of St. Maarten.
Nassief said the construction of the new dealership will create employment opportunities for more persons.
“We will have a state-of-the-art body shop with more technicians, it will be more service-based, better parts area and bigger sales area,” he said. “Toyota comes with a lot of new products and we will have a really nice facility to display more, so there will be more salespeople. Our complement of staff will definitely grow.”
Customers can look out for new Toyota models entering the St. Maarten market such as the Toyota Rush. The dealership also plans to increase its Hino truck line.
Nassief’s vision is for Real Auto to “be the number one dealership on the island.” He thanked consumers for continuing to support the company.
“We know the conditions are a bit hard now, so thanks for bearing with us, but we are here for the long haul and we want to grow every day and hopefully we will get a Christmas present in November,” he said referring to the opening of the new Real Auto dealership building.