Brand Pretorius, one of the best known and most informed people in the South African motor industry retires as CEO of the McCarthy Motor Group on 1 March after a career in the local industry stretching back 38 years.
Born 63 years ago in Steynsrus, Free State, Sybrand (Brand) Pretorius qualified with a Master of Commerce degree from the University of the Free State before starting his career in the motor industry in 1973 when he joined Toyota South Africa. Having undertaken management positions within the firm’s research, planning, sales and marketing divisions, Pretorius was appointed managing director of Toyota SA Marketing in 1988. Under his guidance Toyota SA became the market leader in vehicle sales and customer satisfaction.
In March 1995 Pretorius joined South Africa’s largest motor retail group, McCarthy Motor Holdings, as its chief executive and was appointed to the position of CEO of McCarthy Limited four years later. In 1999 McCarthy was in bad shape. Having accrued sizeable debt write-offs in its Prefcor division, the group was technically insolvent by the end of the year. Pretorius played a vital role in revitalising the company – through successful recapitalisation and restructuring, the company was set back on track before being acquired by Bidvest in 2004.
Pretorius has built a strong reputation as a knowledgeable speaker on matters relating to leadership, business and particularly the motor industry. Over the years he has won many accolades, including Automobil Man of the Year (1995), while a survey conducted in May 1999 by the influential publication Professional Management Review (PMR) by a representative panel consisting of chief executives, fleet managers and motoring journalists identified him as the most admired leader in the South African motor industry. This award was bestowed on him again in June 2000. The publishers of the SA Automotive Yearbook presented him with a Lifetime Achiever’s Award in 2003 for outstanding service to the local motor industry. This was followed by induction into the SA motor industry’s Hall of Fame in 2006. The annual Trust Barometer opinion survey, conducted among company directors by research company Ask Afrika in 2009, saw Pretorius recognised as the most trusted leader in the SA motor industry.
The director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), Nico Vermeulen, had this to say: “NAAMSA wishes to pay tribute to Brand Pretorius for his outstanding and immense contribution to the broader SA motor industry since the early 1970’s. He consistently placed a premium on the interests of customers, customer relations and employees.
“The SA automotive industry remains indebted to Brand for his high standards, professionalism and visionary leadership skills in promoting the interests of all sectors of this dynamic, multi-faceted and very complex industry. His relationships with industry and other stakeholders were based on mutual respect and trust.”
The CEO of the Retail Motor Industry organisation (RMI), Jeff Osborne, had this to say: “Brand became president of the RMI in 2001, at a particularly challenging time in the history of this long-established organisation that had been radically restructured form the previous MIF / SAMIEA organisations. Through Brand’s leadership, vision and extraordinary ability to inspire people the RMI steadily grew and strengthened into a very relevant and viable structure.
Brand Pretorius leaves McCarthy with a legacy of 116 wholly-owned dealerships and a staff complement of more than 6 500 people. However, he is not going to sit back and rest. He will remain very active in the South African business world through a number of non-executive directorships of, amongst others, the ABSA Group, Reunert Limited, RGT Smart Market Intelligence, the National Business Initiative, University of Stellenbosch Business School and the READ Educational Trust.