CVD: Why are you selling Isuzu Truck UK – is the company in trouble?
NK: Not at all! I wanted to secure the future of the company and the business is in great shape. We’ve just celebrated a stunning year’s performance but now it seems logical that ITUK should join its natural family and be given the tools to grow even more.
CVD: Are you staying on as head of the company?
NK: I am now 65 and no one can go on forever. I will be continuing in my current role until August this year to ensure a seamless transition for Yuki Murata and the ITUK team.
CVD: Is that your final departure date or will you continue to be involved?
NK: I will probably be involved as long as I am still breathing! That’s the plan for the foreseeable future at least and beyond that I may well be invited to stay on in a non-exec capacity.
CVD: Why is Marayuki Murata taking over instead of either another Brit or someone else in the company?
NK: It’s simply that he is the best person for the job. He’s been Chairman of Isuzu Europe for some time and previously he was CEO of Isuzu Australia that enjoyed market leadership for over 20 years.
CVD: Why did Isuzu want to buy the company in the UK?
NK: We broke into this highly competitive and mature marketplace in 1996 and we were successful from day one. In 2004 we successfully negotiated our management buy-out from RAC Plc. We’ve survived one of the toughest recessions in history and maintained consistent sales levels owing to increasing market share.
Isuzu Motors is one of the largest truck manufacturers in the world. The company has a European strategy and establishing a presence in the UK is part of it. Isuzu has a natural affinity with the UK in culture and language and they consider us one of the most professional distributors they have worked with.
CVD: What about your staff? Will there be any job losses and redundancies?
NK: The employees have been told that there are no plans for staff changes or redundancies. As I said before, Isuzu really values the expertise and passion of the team at ITUK. Isuzu is really happy with the business in the UK and intend to work on an “if it’s not broke don’t fix it basis’. Therefore Keith Child, Richard Draycott and I will be staying on in our current capacities.
However Bob Haughton has decided that this is a perfect opportunity to take a change in direction within the industry, so he sadly leaves us and has already successfully handed over his day-to-day business to his Operations colleagues. I must put on record my appreciation for everything he has done over the last 17 years. Bob was with me from the beginning and was pivotal in the development of our after sales strategies and indeed our dealer network. Bob has been truly instrumental in helping to make Isuzu Truck UK the success it is today.
CVD: How will the company survive without you at the helm? To the industry you are Isuzu Truck UK!
NK: I have surrounded myself with the most talented team of people. As the CEO (MD) I’ve got the profile as head of the company, but our success is totally down to a great team of people, our dealerships and our suppliers. I know that the company will continue to thrive without me at the helm and I’ll still be very much involved.
We began in a marketplace where we were an unknown brand and over the years our team has built a reputation for providing great trucks and award-winning customer service that is simply second to none.
I will be semi-retiring knowing that the company has a great future under Isuzu.
CVD: If there aren’t any job cuts will there be any pay cuts?
NK: Even in the worst part of the recession, the only people to take pay cuts were the directors of the company. We have taken our lead from companies like John Lewis, and when we did a management buy-out, we invited our employees of that time to become shareholders.
Through this deal with Isuzu Motors we’ve been able to give many of our long-term staff a very delightful and unexpected present.
CVD: How much has the staff got?
NK: It varies from person to person depending on how many shares they had, but all concerned has received at least a four-figure sum.
CVD: What are Isuzu’s future plans for Isuzu Truck UK?
NK: Isuzu Motors has a European strategy and once Murata-San has his feet under the table, he’ll be able to tell you more about it. It’s all very positive, we’ve got a substantial deal, our employees are safe in their jobs, I’m still involved in the business and the company will continue to grow and expand.
I am really excited about the future of the company. Being a relatively new distributor following an MBO and fighting through some pretty challenging economic times has been quite a stressful journey. It will be great to have a serious parent who has the same aims and ambitions with the resources and power to expedite them.
CVD: Will the UK become the European HQ for Isuzu Motors?
NK: I honestly don’t know. This is something we will have to discuss with Murata-San once he’s in a position to talk about Isuzu’s European strategy.
CVD: Will Isuzu Truck UK still have its headquarters in Hatfield?
NK: Of course. We are so established in that location, which is easily accessible for London, the Midlands and the north of England etc. Our precious people are mainly locally based and the building has been purpose-built to suit our requirements.
CVD: Will Isuzu Motors own the building too?
NK: Actually no, we’ve sold the company but a team of us still own the building.
CVD: Will Isuzu Truck UK be introducing any new products into the UK marketplace?
NK: Isuzu will continue to provide state of the art trucks as it always has. I expect the company will review the UK market to establish whether there are other opportunities to expand with some of its other products. We have Euro VI products just around the corner but beyond that it’s something we will discuss in the future with Murata-San.
CVD: Won’t Murata-San find it hard to follow in your footsteps and operate in the UK market?
NK: Murata-San probably speaks English better than I do – or Strine at least! Yuki (as he is known to his friends) was a past managing director of Isuzu in Australia and has been head of European operations for some time. Yuki loves the UK so much his family are based here and has been for many, many years. More importantly, I have had the pleasure of working with Yuki for a year and have thoroughly enjoyed his humour, his sharpness and his expertise.
Until August we will be sharing an office so he can learn as much about my role and the company as possible and I’m really looking forward to working with him. It is quite lonely at the top you know and to have such a wonderful partner for the last 6 months of my full-time career is a complete joy.
He will be taking the company to the next level and I know he will make his mark in his own way.
CVD: What will you do with all that free time?
NK: Ha! I don’t think I’ll have any free time. It will be business as usual, but I’ll also have time to pursue my other interests, such as my charity Auto22, where I’m a non- Executive Director plus my mentoring project for young people.
I am passionate about mentoring young people and Auto22 is a garage business offshoot from the young person’s charity Catch 22, which helps youngsters to move their lives on from difficult situations. At Auto22 we provide opportunities for apprenticeships and work experience, as well as running a Skills Centre to get unemployed young people training and qualifications.
We’ve opened three Auto22 garages in Kent and we’ve got an ambitious plan to expand into a nationwide brand. So when an Auto22 garage opens near you I expect all of you to take your cars there for the best servicing and customer service you can get!
I am also in talks with government ministers about initiating a mentoring scheme for our unemployed young people in the UK.
Apart from all of this, I am also looking forward to becoming a grandmother for the first time in my life!
CVD: it says in the press release that IMJ has acquired ITUK for an undisclosed sum. Can you be more revealing about the value of the deal?
NK: No, ITUK was acquired for an undisclosed sum and we can’t give you more detail than that.
CVD: Now that Isuzu Motors has acquired ITUK, will it be looking to purchase other distributors in Europe?
NK: No, ITUK was a flagship truck-selling distributor in Europe with a highly-professional team of people, with extensive knowledge of the market. Now with the might of Isuzu Motors behind it, the company is going to get even stronger. There are no plans to make any further acquisitions in Europe.
CVD: Is there any likelihood that the truck and pick-up brands will join forces now in the UK?
NK: Certainly not, Isuzu Motors is very satisfied with the performance of its pick-up distributor – Isuzu UK Ltd (International Motors). Isuzu recognised the specific truck expertise that is within ITUK. This is a completely different expertise that is required for the pick-up market, so the companies will remain completely independent of each other.
CVD: What is the turnover of ITUK?
NK: We had a great year last year and our turnover was just over £24m.
CVD: How many vehicles do you sell in UK per annum?
NK: In 2012 we sold 1260 and already this year we are ahead of our plan.