Former Volkswagen South Africa sales and marketing director Mike Glendinning aims to bring a fresh perspective to the Kelston Motor Group’s operations after being appointed a non-executive director.
The 61-year-old, who joined the Eastern Cape company on November 1, brings 36 years of experience in the sales and marketing game to the boardroom table.
Glendinning retired from VWSA in 2021 and said he needed the 12-month break to re-energise ahead of his new assignment with Kelston, which has 16 vehicle brands – including VW – under its roof.
Twenty-one dealerships serve the coastal stretch from Gqeberha to East London and the interior in major towns such as Queenstown, Cradock, Somerset East and Graaff-Reinet.
“I have known [Kelston managing director] Mike McNaughton for many years and have always had respect for his business operations,” he explained.
“I maintained contact with him and at a recent meeting he offered me the opportunity to become a non-executive director of the group, which I had no hesitation agreeing to.”
During his stint with VWSA he worked extensively with the dealer network and council. He also oversaw many successful campaigns to promote the Volkswagen brand.
Glendinning believed that a passion for business was the core element to achieving goals.
“There is no substitute for enthusiasm and excitement in what you do and how you do things in business,” he said.
“These characteristics are especially beneficial as you enter leadership roles and assist greatly in building a positive team spirit.”
He said the best advice he had been given after entering the automotive industry was to ‘act like a sponge’ and soak up knowledge from those around him.
“The industry is multi-faceted and complicated so I grabbed every learning opportunity that came my way.”
To go with the all-important know-how, he said people skills were also key to unlocking success.
“I always tried to be a good listener and wanted my team to work with me as opposed to for me.
“Obviously, leaders have to make tough decisions but a business is ultimately only as good as its people. Having their commitment and support in good and bad times is invaluable.”
In his latest role, he believed his initial input would be to provide insight and advice to ensure the group’s continued success.
“They have very successfully established the Kelston brand throughout the Eastern Cape via outstanding customer service and commitment to their various franchises,” said Glendinning, who grew up in Gqeberha and now lives in Knysna.
“This has been a good example of success breeding success and it positions them well for future expansion opportunities. Their reputation is their strength.”
He began his career with VWSA as a graduate trainee, spending his formative years on the art side of the business with marketing-related responsibilities.
“I then moved to the science side, learning about product marketing, sales planning and distribution. Thereafter came sales and aftersales.”
Glendinning was appointed to the VWSA board in 2006 as sales and marketing director responsible for VW passenger and commercial vehicles as well as Audi.
He was executive vice-president for sales and marketing at VW de Mexico from 2014 to 2018 but returned to his former position at VWSA in 2019.