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Axel Theissen is the second generation CEO of CYMOT, one of Namibia’s most successful retail motor and industrial sales organisations. Automotive Refinisher took time out to see just how well the desert nation is doing.

Q In the last year, have you been able to grow the national footprint of the CYMOT distribution across Namibia?

A We’re in a phase now where in such a small nation collision repair remains one of the important growth areas. We’re now looking at market saturation and have to enjoy the prospect of just limited growth at this point in time. There are pockets of excellence but body shop profitability is under serious strain as the economic downturn affects us financially in the Namibian market of car repair.

You can’t get depressed for it will come back to better levels so our position is a simple one – we will just have to work through it all.

Q How large is the CYMOT operation  in Namibia?

A We’re trading via 12 branches on a national basis, which are serviced by the huge distribution centre in Windhoek. Because of our geographical location CYMOT needs to stock high levels of inventories in order to guarantee high supply rates to our customers. Our original business policy on operating is based on the  philosophy that no CYMOT customer order is too big or too small to cover.

Q Tell us about the success you have had with the newest Colour Perfect division for collision repair materials.

A Well like everyone else, market economics also affect us and seeing as we have a number of top shops working with PPG Envirobase®HP in major approved repair centres, they are doing well right now. With three paint top brands on offer nationally such as Envirobase®HP, Max Meyer®and Selemix® we are able to offer a refinish solution to any level of body shop customer. We are launching an all-new value line called Nexa, which will definitely increase our competitiveness in the entry level side of the business where price remains a very important part of the purchase proposition.

We have enjoyed great back-up and technical service from both PPG and the 3M. PPG won our Supplier of the Year in that division and we are proud of the back-up and service levels that has been delivered to our clients.

Q How do you keep pace with market changes and technology in Namibia?

A It’s our obligation to travel across the world to key trade shows to visit our principal agency supplier agencies. With their expertise this enables CYMOT to bring back process changes to increase profitability and innovative trends that will change the repair cycle process in the body shop.

Q People form a big part of the CYMOT Group’s success. Do you carry out any internal up-to-date training?

A  Our biggest change this year has been around the introduction of a state-of-the-art IT system to keep pace with changing customer purchasing trends so our management team have all seen a centre of  change there. It ‘s taken a considerable amount of energy to keep everyone up to speed because we value a CYMOT leading edge concept in the Namibian market. A very stable national dealer network which is well managed at every level has helped us on service to the aftermarket.

Q Tell us a bit about your job within CYMOT.

A Truthfully, this year has been one of long hours and hard work as we have come to terms with our new ERP system. The new platform now delivers the most up-to-date IT functionality and my belief is that if you can’t stay abreast with technology you will sooner than later be left behind. The vital activity of CYMOT’s success in all our divisions has remained one of excellent communication with both our suppliers and our customers.

Q Angola a couple of years ago was a huge prospect of growth for CYMOT. How is it doing now?

A Well it’s hard to be positive about Angola right now for the oil price plunge dealt a huge blow to their fledgling economy.

Getting foreign currency out of the country is an ongoing battle as the government struggles with their huge liquidity problems. So it’s an all change state of affair when Angola gets placed on the table for business success.

Q What challenges do you see facing the local Namibian collision repair trade right now?

A There are always risks to the Namibian market coming from political and economic areas. Take the static conditions of Angola and the poor political performance from the South African government and see that with two of our major neighbouring markets suffering stagnation, it will be difficult for Namibia to shine in outstanding aftermarket volumes this period, which is austere.

It must affect us ultimately but our huge effort with the CYMOT Trade Show, was a major marketing initiative bringing over 200 suppliers to Namibia makes a huge statement that we’re in this for the long haul.

Life goes on regardless of short term doldrums. In real terms we know that profitability returns in the body shop remain under pressure but repairing the “world car” now means we’re left with no options but to gear up in better ways to cope with technical changes in the process of repair which are on the way in all world markets.