Interview with Dr. Eric Dako, Executive Director of Toyota Ghana Co. Ltd.

  • March 8, 2017

A FRONTIER OF AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY. Dr. Eric Dako led the Toyota Ghana Co. Ltd. to achieve the highest vehicles sales record ever. He has 15 years of work experience in the auto industry. He also has experience in marketing, sales, after sales and logistics.
Toyota has made a footprint in the Ghanaian auto market, what inspired this success?
First of all, I would like to commend all of our staffs for having the understanding of what Toyota Ghana stands for, our vision, mission, values and culture; and have shown commitment to our operations. Toyota Ghana has some guiding principles that have helped us make a footprint in the Ghana auto market. We pride ourselves in “customer first/lifetime customer” principle. In this respect, our ultimate goal is to be the most customer focused and environmentally friendly automobile company in Ghana. We put our customers first in all our activities. We make sure customers receive the highest satisfaction and get the best vehicle life experience. To delight our customers, we conduct continuous improvement and personal efficiency activities well known to us as KAIZEN. In all our interactions with our customers, we exhibit transparency, care and high level of skills to win customer trust. We also believe Human Resource is the most valuable asset of the company, so we constantly train and develop the skills of our staff. Lastly, one of our guiding principle is “Respect for People”. We show respect to all employees, customers and people we come in contact with. All these put together have helped us achieve significant footprints to the auto market. Here are some of the important questions answered by Dr. Eric Dako, to our team member:
What should we expect from the company this year in terms of bringing innovation into the market?
It is our practice to “Know the Way, Lead the Way” in the auto market.Creativity and innovation have been our hallmark. Every year, we introduce something special to the market to match up with the technological trend and competition. Last year, we introduced the New Generation Hilux and the Fortuner with the slogan “Comfortably Tough”. These new models are designed to be extremely tough to withstand much harsher terrain, yet so comfortable to drive. This is achieved through a sophisticated technological design to minimize the transfer of the harshness of the road and outside noise into the cabin of the vehicle. To improve our spare-parts supply and services to our workshops and customers, we introduced the barcode readers. This has significantly improved our service delivery of spare parts. This year, we will have model modification and model changes to some of our vehicles. These are expected to put us ahead of the competition. We are also strengthening our Aftersales Service by equipping our staff with the requisite skills to work satisfactorily within the shortest possible time. We value our customers’ time and would like to shorten the time they spend waiting for their vehicles during servicing, whilst we improve on the service quality at the same time. We are educating, encouraging and enforcing our engineers to learn to “Fix it Right” (FIR) the first time. We also intend to expand our service network to enable us reach most of our customers all over the country. Our customers should expect Superior Quality vehicles at competitive price, superior Aftersales Service support, quicker response to customer needs, and peace of mind motoring.
What keeps Toyota Ghana in the competition with the emergence of Chinese Auto products in the Ghanaian market?
Unlike Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), acquiring vehicle requires higher initial investment and lifetime usage cost – regular fueling and maintenance cost. We encourage customers not to focus on the initial vehicle cost but to consider the overall vehicle lifetime ownership benefits. We educate customers to consider the vehicle running expenses, customer/pedestrian safety built by the manufacturer for the prevention of accident; the vehicle cabin integrity that has a link to the level of occupant injury in the unlikely event of accident; the dealership Aftersales Service support; the re-sale value of the vehicle and many others. Toyota vehicles are well known for quality, durability and reliability. In addition, Toyota Ghana provides Superior After Sales service support that matches well with Toyota Global standards. In considering the overall benefit of owning a vehicle, we believe we are ahead of competition.
What areas do the company performs its Corporate Social Responsibilities and why?
Our core areas of support are Health, Education, Road Safety and Environment. In supporting these areas, we are more concerned with the impact of our support to the community and the country as a whole. We believe in the old saying, – healthy body, healthy mind. We support the community in which we operate to have a healthy body. We find Education to be the building block of every nation. When people become more educated and knowledgeable, it benefits the individual, the society and the country. Being an automobile company, we find it appropriate to support road safety activities. Safety as a whole is one of our major priorities. The continuity of the environment in which we operate of prime concern to us.
What are the challenges the company faced in the last few years?
We noticed that the automobile market for new vehicles is shrinking over the last few years. This, we attribute to the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar in recent times, the current taxes on vehicles and the slowdown of economic growth. These are affecting the total new vehicles imports. From the side of Aftersales Support, we have aggressive planned to expand as much as possible to reach our customers instead of most of them driving long distances to access our facilities. Meanwhile the vehicle population at most of the targeted areas does not make it cost effective to establish more service networks. The influx of Toyota dealers who have no authorization from Toyota manufacturer creates a big maintenance challenge to us when such users’ vehicles breakdown and are brought to us for repairs. Some of the vehicles (if not most), imported by these Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) non-authorized dealers are not meant for Ghana market. Sometimes there are fuel incompatibility issues, vehicle body strength not meant for severe usage etc. that lead to damage to some major components. During vehicle breakdown, we are not able to readily support the Toyota user/owner adequately, as some of the vehicle components may not be the same as the ones Toyota Ghana sells. Lastly, in case of special service campaign or vehicle recall that requires a field fix, we are not able to support such vehicles imported through an unauthorized source. Such a situation makes some customers feel we intentionally do not want to assist them because they did not purchase from us or we are not well skilled to address their needs.
What is your expectation from the new government moving forward?
We expect the new government to review the taxes on vehicles. In some cases, we wish that certain taxes are removed. In some other cases, we expect reduction of the tax percentage on some categories of vehicles. We expect the government to purchase from new car dealers who have authorization from the vehicle manufacturer. This will be the best way for the government to get the best vehicles and the best after sales support. By doing this, the government will have the best benefit of procuring vehicles.
How would you rate the performance of Toyota Ghana in its last year’s financial statement?
I would say our performance was good and close to our expectation. We were prudent in our expenses, improved our operational efficiency, minimized waste and most importantly, aggressive to our sales effort. Despite the market challenges and general declining sales trend in the automobile industry, we achieved our set target at the end of the year.
Can you share with us the strategies you have put in place to increase the confidence of your customers in your products?
Over years of operations, customers have become aware of the quality of the vehicles we bring to Ghana and the superior After Sales service support we provide. Our Brand image is high and in 2015 Toyota Ghana won the Best Brand Award at the Ghana Auto Awards. Customer confidence in our products and services is already high. All the same, we are putting in more efforts to increase the level of customer confidence and attract more new customers. The successful regular renewal of our distributorship agreement with the manufacturer is an indication of the confidence Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), Japan has in us. We have direct access and support from the manufacturer. This gives confidence to our customers. We believe that taking proper care, listening to the customers, addressing their needs and being transparent in all our activities will build trust and increase the customer confidence in our products and services. We have established a number of measures throughout every Section, Unit and Department of the company but key amongst them that deals directly with the customer voice is the Customer Satisfaction Department that is mandated to purposely listen to our customers and quickly address their needs. Every year we conduct Customer Satisfaction Survey and mystery shopping to understand how customers feel about us. We have 3 years’ manufacturer’s warranty that gives customers the comfort when purchasing new vehicle(s). During vehicle servicing the EM set-up allows the customer to see what is being done on his/her vehicle. We also allow regular tour of our facility by interested corporate bodies, institutions and individuals. During such tours we take advantage to explain our operational activities to the customers.
What legacy has Toyota left in the Ghanaian auto market since its inception?
We have once become the No. 1 company in Ghana by GIPC award of Ghana Club 100. We have consistently been in the top 100 companies of Ghana Club 100 ranking. In the past, we consistently won the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) award as the Auto Firm of the year. After a while of continuous years of winning the award, we were elevated to the Hall of Fame position. We have retained this position for eight consecutive years. As a company that “Knows the Way, Lead the Way” we have pioneered a number of innovative activities in the industry. We were the first to introduce Saturday operations to the new dealership auto market. This provides convenience to a lot of customers who are not able to contact us during the weekdays. We introduced the Toyota User Conference to gather owners and users of Toyota vehicles and update them of current trends in the auto market, Toyota Ghana strategic plans and goal and provide all other information we find relevant to the customers. We give these our cherished customers the opportunity to express their concerns to us. Such feedback goes a long way to help us improve upon our operations for the benefit of the customers. We introduced the Express Maintenance (EM) Service. Through a well coordinated effort of service reception, the spare parts and the workshop team, we are able to do periodic maintenance within 60 minutes. Whereas previously only one technician works on the customer vehicle, in the case of EM we have a minimum of three (3) well trained technicians that work on a customer vehicle at any particular time. Since its introduction, we have realized a much higher improvement in service quality. At the moment, all our workshops all over Ghana conduct the Express Maintenance Service.
Apart from the auto sector is Toyota investing in other sectors of the Ghanaian economy?
No. Over the years, we have been focusing our attention in the development and expansion of Toyota operations in Ghana. We believe there are a lot more to do in the auto market to excite our customers and let them have peace of mind motoring. All the same, as a way of supporting the community where we operate, we invest through our CSR activities in the area of Health, Education, Road Safety and the Environment.

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