Duwayne Britz, Nissan Group of Africa’s recently appointed head of planning and operations, is a man who loves finding answers to problems.
“My approach has always been to ask, ‘what’s the paradox here?’ knowing full well that if the task is difficult, it’s normally well worth doing – and, it goes without saying, doing well.”
Britz is a two-decade veteran in the motor industry, the last 17 years of which have been with Nissan in a corporate journey that’s taken him from Pretoria to Paris and Dubai – and now back to Pretoria.
Originally from Port Elizabeth on the East Coast of South Africa, where he completed his schooling and qualified as a Cost Accountant, he was brought into Nissan as a marketing and sales business manager, quickly moving into the V-Up programme for management development at Nissan South Africa.
“I’m a product of Nissan,” he says, “I loved the ethos of Kaizen, or continuous improvement, which is probably one of the main reasons why I’m still here after all these years. I loved the idea of cross-functionality, of collaboration and of breaking silos.” That ethos would see him leave for the US to be trained on V-Up, come back to South Africa and then leave to work in Europe, where he would meet and marry his wife, return to South Africa during the global financial crisis to use his accounting skills to look at costs, spend three years at Nissan South Africa’s corporate planning team and then become alliance pilot leading synergies between Renault and Nissan for three years.
This was followed by a spell as head of Datsun sales operations in 2014 before becoming head of volume planning and distribution. Britz was then seconded to Dubai for 18 months in the Programme Management Office to help set up the general and administration costs unit during the very first year of Nissan’s IMEA region.
Now’s he’s back in South Africa to help Jim Dando and the team at Nissan Sub Saharan Africa.
“Despite my 20 years in the motor industry,” he says, “I’m not a petrol head, I’m a problem solver, and my focus is always on people and numbers. My approach has always been to ask, ‘what’s the paradox here?’”
The paradox on the continent is between standards and flexibility; starting with the fact that despite Nissan being a global leader in intelligent mobility, the greatest seller in Africa is the 20-year-old legendary Nissan NP300 Hardbody, the D22 which rolls out of the Rosslyn plant every day to 47 markets in Africa.
“The other paradox is that there isn’t a real retail market, but rather a lot of tender work for fleet, whether corporate of government. It’s a massively complex market for a relatively small total industry volume (TIV), albeit with the biggest potential in the world.”
Britz’s immediate challenge will be to automate the reporting and related systems with the dealers that make up Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and focussing on the development of people both within the SSA office and in the various Nissan country offices. “I’ve been very fortunate to have been exposed to some incredible leaders at my time in Nissan, people like Mike Whitfield (Managing Director, Nissan Group of Africa) and Jim Dando (director of sales and operations, Nissan Group of Africa) and now it’s my turn to give back,” he says, “I’m look forward to that opportunity.”