Established in 1936, Car & General is the company behind a wide range of power generation, automotive and engineering products in East Africa. For over 80 years, the regional leader has supplied generators, motorbikes, ‘tuktuks’, laundry equipment, lawn mowers, marine engines, tractors, construction equipment as tires. As a competitive regional firm, Car & General seeks to be the market leader flexing its muscle as the most experienced supplier in the power generation, automotive and engineering industry locally. Corporate Watch Magazine’s Ker Mogallo speaks to Car & General (Trading) Limited Managing Director Mr. David Chesoni and files the following report on the institution’s path to success.
Car & General from its modest beginnings has become one of the top companies in East Africa, playing an important role in regional expansion of commerce and trade. Initially located in Nakuru, Kenya before relocating to Nairobi due to rapid growth.
The firm, now headquartered in Nairobi boasts of branches in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kitengela, Eldoret, Kitale, Nanyuki, Kisii, Voi, Bungoma, Kericho and Malindi. It has subsidiaries in Uganda and Tanzania.
As part of Tanzania´s operation, Car & General operates Kibo Poultry Products Limited one of the oldest chicken broiler farms on the African continent, situated at Moshi. In addition, Car & General has a joint venture – Cummins C&G Limited with Cummins Inc and operates an IT training venture – NIIT in Nairobi.
In the beginning, the firm’s objectives were to import and distribute automotive parts, white goods and re-treading. However, with the ever-changing markets, the firm has risen above its expectation becoming a respectable public company dealing in ‘almost everything’.
‘We were once in the sales of cars, which was not very successful, we then transitioned and over time our product range now cover power generators, automotive and engine-related products. These span several industries – industrial, agriculture, construction, finance, retail, domestic, tourism, petroleum, transport, and mining among others. Basically, my job is to ensure we sell and achieve our budgeted volumes,’ noted Car and General managing Director David Chesoni in an exclusive interview at the New Cargen House Industrial area.
The man in charge of C&G (Trading) Limited, which runs the distribution business in Kenya, added that Car & General represents several reputable international brand names in East Africa.
They include Cummins diesel generators, TVS motorcycles, Piaggio three wheelers, Briggs & Stratton small petrol engines – water pumps, lawn mowers, generators, brush cutters, IngersollRand air compressors and light construction equipment, Kubota agricultural tractors, Mercury outboard engines, MRF Tyres, Garmin Satellite Navigation devices, Toyota forklifts, BT lifting equipment, Laundry equipment, Motorol Lubricants and Doosan excavators and wheel loaders.
‘Our target market is as wide as our product range, that is where the ‘General’ in the Car and General emanates from. We used to be in everything in the eighties, we sold cookers, fridges, gumboots, and operated car care centres, tyre retreading, manufacturing and a lot more . However, our core product is in the transport sector, the motorcycles and the three wheelers commonly referred to as the ‘tuktuks’, said Chesoni.
The confidence in his voice tells it all about his products. Boasting of respected quality products, Car & General in addition holds knowledgeable and reliable parts and spares, coupled with timely and effective after sales service carried out by competent dedicated personnel. The company’s strongest selling feature is the quality after sales service they offer.
‘At Car & General, we do not only sell quality products, our continuous aim is to effectively service everything we sell. We give product guarantee and ensure our customers are satisfied with the products we sell to them. Our journey from good to great means that we understand that customer focus is an issue of integrity, we deliver what we promise – providing power for better living by delivering smiles and fulfillment to every customer,’ noted Mr. Chesoni.
‘The DNA of this company has been built on trust, our customers trust us. What we know is that people buy from us because of our ability to sell quality products and offer excellent after sales service within the warranty period, he adds.
Mr. Chesoni began his career at Car & General in the year 1996 as a trainee selling Briggs & Stratton products and since then has held several positions growing with the company.
Prior to his appointment as the Managing Director Car & General (Trading) limited, he was the Chief Operating Officer of Car & General. A graduate of Economics from Egerton University, he is responsible for profitability of the Kenyan distribution business, a task he has taken head on.
In his role, he also oversees sales and service of TVS two-wheelers, Piaggio three-wheelers, Doosan excavators, Toyota forklifts, Kubota tractors, IngersollRand air compressors, Briggs & Stratton power equipment and Electrolux laundry machines all of which fall under his portfolio as well as other day to day management duties.
With a strong management team, an excellent reputation and on-going support from international partners Car & General is over the next few years, looking forward to grow from strength to strength. In 2019, the Nanyuki branch was inaugurated.
‘We believe we will achieve this since we have experience in supplying products in this market. We have also established a significant regional technical team in terms of sales and service and have the ability to support the necessary inventory,’ affirms Chesoni.
Going forward, the straight talking Managing Director says Car & General is investing in the next generation of leaders to ensure sustainability of its business in the future.
He notes that; ‘East Africa is a developing region and we must keep abreast with the changing environment. At Car & General, we are very positive of the future, we will continue to invest and expand into the region as well as take on younger leaders with the technological zeal and up to date with trends to enable us grow even further.
A firm supporter of change, Mr. Chesoni advocates for the enhancement of local manufacturing to boost the sector as per the big 4 agendas. He however notes that as much as change is good, it must be properly planned and it must be well executed.
‘We need to localize manufacturing even more, but first we must ensure the environment is right. The biggest challenge we have is depending on a single supplier, we must start from somewhere, tackle our challenges and improve as we grow,’ he added.
The company, which is worth close to Ksh 12 Billion currently directly, employs over 500 people and indirectly positively impacts the lives of millions of Kenyans.
‘We must value honesty and integrity and must ensure we do the right thing all the time as a country, in this way, we grow together as businesses and as a country,’ Mr. Chesoni concludes.