Kia South Africa welcomes Paul Turnbull as CEO

Kia South Africa today welcomes Paul Turnbull as CEO. The leadership change was announced by Osman Arbee, CEO of Motus Holdings, in April and comes into effect as of today as part of a broader set of leadership changes with the group. Turnbull joins Kia from Hyundai Automotive South Africa and succeeds Gary Scott, who held the position of CEO at Kia since 1 July 2017 and who has been appointed Chief Digital Officer of Motus Holdings.

A retailer to the core

Turnbull (51) was born and raised in Johannesburg, matriculating at Jeppe High School for Boys and attaining a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude). He started his career in the automotive industry at the age of 22, joining Wheels of Africa – who held the distributorship for Hyundai in South Africa at the time – in 1995 as a sales coordinator. With a knack for retail, he moved into the role of sales executive by the end of the same year and into the role of Dealer Principal at Hyundai Nelspruit a mere two years later, become the company’s youngest DP in 1997 at the age of 25.

A year later he moved to the Middelburg branch – leading it to win Dealer of the Year in 1998 – before relocating to the Western Cape and taking up the leadership at the Tygervalley branch. In 1999, Wheels of Africa was liquidated, with the Hyundai distributorship moving to Associated Motor Holdings (AMH), a division of Imperial Holdings. Turnbull moved into the AMH network as Dealer Principal in 2000, and was promoted to regional manager in Cape Town in April 2001. In this capacity, his responsibilities grew from looking after four dealerships to ten, reporting directly to the CEO of Hyundai Automotive South Africa, followed by a promotion to Regional Director in 2005.

His success in turning the region into one of the company’s most profitable operations resulted in six dealers from the Pretoria region being added to his portfolio in 2015, followed by an additional six dealership on Johannesburg’s west rand – growing the portfolio to a total of 22 highly profitable dealers. In 2023, Turnbull was promoted to MD of Hyundai Automotive South Africa’s retail division, virtually doubling his portfolio to 43 dealers.

A passion for growth in a world filled with opportunities

Turnbull is exceptionally positive about the immense growth opportunities that Kia brand is faced with in South Africa, and has already affirmed that the brand will always look to grow, whether it’s through expanding its product range into segments where new opportunities are waiting to be harnessed, or growing its dealer network in size and profitability.

“I’m excited to join the Kia brand, despite the current economic headwinds that is affecting the entire automotive industry,” he says. “Kia is a brilliant brand with brilliant products, and there are boundless opportunities for the brand to accelerate the remarkable growth it’s seen in the 25 years it has been active in South Africa. The industry is facing many challenges at the moment, but we remain bullish about growing Kia’s market share beyond 5% in the next two years. It is imperative for us to grow the trust and confidence our shareholders and retail investors have in the brand through increased profitability in the retail network.”

According to Turnbull, this goes hand-in-hand with investing in the people who make up the business. A key focus for him is to reset expectations and to ensure that the right people are in the right places. He has also greenlighted further investments into training and development of staff across the board, enabling people to deliver the best at all times and to create opportunities for everyone to excel. He attributes this belief to the exceptional leaders and mentors he has been exposed to while working his way up the ranks, including well-known industry leaders like Manny de Canha, Allan Ross and Niall Lynch.

“One of Kia’s values is to keep things simple, which is a natural alignment with my own leadership style,” comments Turnbull. “We’re all blessed with the capacity to think, but we tend to over-analyse things and delay action. I thrive in making informed decisions and making them decisively. There’s no room for ego in our business, so I’m not scared of admitting when a mistake has been made and to reverse a decision if it’s needed.

“My leadership style allows people to remove the mental hurdles that constrain decisiveness and acting when it’s needed. We’re blessed with good people who are passionate about the brand, our products and our collective potential, and my responsibility is to ensure that everyone feels comfortable to contribute the best ideas and plans to move the brand and business forward.”

A family man at heart

Turnbull has two daughters – one working abroad and one studying in the Western Cape, where he resided until his appointment at Kia – and is a family-oriented man at heart. In his free time, he enjoys being active and outdoors, and often partakes in a variety of sports like golf, kite surfing, padel and adventure biking.

“I want to thank Gary for his notable contribution to the success of Kia South Africa, and extend my best wishes to him in his new role,” comments Turnbull. “I am excited to get stuck in and drive Kia’s belief in ‘Movement that inspires’ to new heights.”