Timaru is flanked by the snowclad Southern Alps on one side and the blue waters of Caroline Bay on the other. For South Canterbury Toyota the people of the town, surrounding farmland and industries are customers, friends and family.
The company is one of four Canterbury Toyota dealerships owned by the McDermott Group.
Timaru General Manager, Andy Wilson, says business is steady. “The tradies, engineering companies, sheep, beef and crop farmers are all doing pretty well.” The dealership has noticed a drop in sales to dairy farmers but Andy is deep in talks with the managers at a dairy factory that is about to open. “They’ll be needing a fleet of utes and cars to get around the area,” he says.
In all, 34 people work at the dealership which sells close to 500 new and used vehicles a year. It also has a busy workshop with eight technicians and two apprentices – a further three people work in the parts department.
Andy is a home town boy – born and bred in Timaru. “It’s a very progressive area, we have a forward thinking mayor and council, a successful port, and we’re close to the southern lakes, mountains and rivers.”
The staff at South Canterbury Toyota are a passionate lot and got right behind MTA’s work to attract apprentices and qualified staff to the sector. Three of the dealership’s staff feature in the online videos MTA has produced to promote career opportunities in automotive repair, sales, panel and paint, management and business ownership.
Andy says “People and cars – that’s what gets me up in the morning.””
Gareth Heywood is a Toyota Master Technician and has worked for the dealership for the past 19 years. “It’s a great team and we work hard to do better . There’s also room for growth.”
Gareth (above) is all about getting the best out of a car. When he wasn’t servicing and repairing the vehicles coming through the workshop he used to spend his time servicing his other passion – motorsports. His weekends used to be taken up supporting Subaru rally teams – he’s worked as a mechanic for Timaru driver Chris West, V8 supercar driver David Reynolds and with Hayden Paddon when he was driving for Subaru. “But mortgages and children and a five acre farmlet take priority now.” He’s also restoring his father’s 1939 Austin 10.
Gareth’s passion for motorsports is shared by his apprentice, Kieran Wingfield (below) who is loving the new technology and skills he’s picking up in Timaru.
Kieran (who also features in the videos) plans to head to Singapore in a few years to gain a qualification in high performance dyno tuning and then go on to Thailand to work on supercars. “I’ve heard they love Ferrari and Lamborghini over there and the money for looking after them is really good.”
His long term goal is to open in his own business. “It would probably be in Auckland servicing Japanese performance cars and any supercars I can attract.”
“I always wanted to be in sales. My father was a car dealer and one day I see myself with my own business.” Mark was always on the management track and claimed the title of youngest car sales manager in the Toyota network. He joined the Timaru firm in late 2007 after finishing a commerce and marketing degree at university and was appointed sales manager in 2011 at 25 years of age. He’s been upskilling through Toyota’s professional development programme and a Deloitte business course.
“I love the variety the job offers, not being stuck in one place, getting out visiting customers.”
He says sales is a career that can start with a degree or work their way up from any role. For example, some come into sales via workshop or parts departments.
The dealership has other staff who are on the fast track. Danielle Puttollo (below) has just been appointed as service manager to the Toyota dealership in Ashburton. She started out as an apprentice automotive technician and a few years after qualifying took on a service advisor role in the South Canterbury dealership.
“I’ve always loved cars, had toy trucks as a kid and I loved my seven years on the tools. I’m also really enjoying the service repair side of things.”