An interview by John Fraser on behalf of The Cape Messenger
Jeff Osborne is a well-known figure in the world of motoring. He is now the CEO of Gumtree Auto South Africa. The Cape Messenger caught up with him.
CM: What was your first car, and what can you tell us about it?
JO. It was a 1964 Mini 850, which I modified by fitting twin carbs, sports exhaust etc.
CM: What do you drive these days?
JO: I have a collection of 12 classic cars, 5 motorcycles, and my daily drive is a Range Rover.
CM. For you, is motoring a form of transport, a pleasure, a pain or a passion?
JO: It is a total addiction – mad car disease!
CM: You have been in the motor business, one way and another, for most of your working life. What were the highlights?
JO: 15 years with Caltex Oil, as manager of technical sales; for 16 years I owned three Zenex service stations. Then I spent 14 years as CEO of the RMI, and I have had four years as head of Gumtree Auto.
CM: Gumtree Auto South Africa is the largest online vehicle showroom in the country. How is technology enabling the replacement of the physical showroom with the web-based one?
JO: In my view, there will always be a role for a professional showroom experience. However, 80% of the car-buying process takes place online, with consumers only now visiting one show room on average. Previously it was five.
CM: A lot of the bling and glamour is attached to the latest vehicle launches and models. This may eclipse the used car market, which is where most South Africans will buy their next car. Is this fair?
JO: The choice of a used car is strongly influenced by the launch of the new ones. The present sales ratio of used to new has grown to 3:1
CM: South African industrial policy has centred on a strong automotive sector, and many top brands assemble their vehicles here. Is this sustainable?
JO: It is sustainable. As long as we are reliable and competitive.
CM: What annoys you most about other motorists?
JO: My biggest gripe by far with other drivers is the rampant endemic texting and talking on the phone. One tends to see this more readily when on a bike. It is insane how many drivers are doing this. Highly dangerous!