Neale Hill, President of Ford Africa, has a story that will inspire anyone wanting to become a leader. He started as an Intern at Ford more than 20 years ago and has worked his way up to become the President of Ford Africa. In the latest episode of The AutoBiography, Neale shares his leadership journey, the challenges and the lessons he’s learnt along the way.

His role as an Intern allowed Neale to work in different departments. It is there that he learnt to adapt to different roles and responsibilities and, parallel to this, he chose to have mentors that groomed him to develop leadership skills. Some of the challenges Neale faced during his career included navigating different cultures and working with teams across different countries. He also learnt valuable lessons from these experiences, like the importance of communication and building relationships.

Leadership as a ‘Dark Art’

Neale strongly believes that leadership is a ‘Dark-Art’ in that it redefines its meaning to be: finding ways to succeed, to deal with different personalities, groups, and cultures that exist in a team. This kind of leadership includes adapting one’s style to each person in order to get the best out of the team – all the time. With this in mind, Neale subscribes strongly to a servant-leadership model which allows leaders to understand people deeper, to know what inspires or triggers them. Whilst the need to adapt one’s leadership style exists, so too does the need to have specific principles that should never be compromised.

Boosting Confidence in the Economy for Ford Africa

Neale shares the vision for Ford Africa and the role he saw the company playing in the African market. He has always believed that in order to effect change, especially in South Africa, it is important for businesses to step in to assist the government in solving the country’s problems, as the government cannot do it alone. This includes creating opportunities for investments to come into South Africa, which Ford did by requesting the government to allow Ford to create a special economic zone adjacent to the current facilities.

Perseverance and consistency in communication and engagement were key to convincing the government of the importance of this investment. Although the process was not linear, certain tiers and sectors within the government were receptive to the idea. The investment had the potential to contribute up to 2% to the country’s GDP, with 12 factories building parts that were to feed into assembly operations in Silverton to build the next-generation Ranger.

Services on the Customer’s Terms

Providing services on customer terms is a big mindset shift that Ford has been focusing on. It means putting the customer’s needs first and ensuring that they are always treated highly. This shift is being entrenched in the company’s day-to-day operations, ensuring that everyone from staff to customers is aware of this fact.

Customer experience is critical in today’s market. Ford dealers and OEMs have this in mind when creating products, packages, or selling to customers. Their focus should always be on solving the customer’s problem and ensuring they leave with a working vehicle and a happy experience. Ford learnt how important providing an exceptional customer experience is from previous experiences.

Vertical Integration and Expansion of EVs for Ford South Africa

As electric vehicles are a hot topic in the automotive industry, many companies are investing heavily in research and development to stay ahead of the curve. Ford is one of the companies that have been putting plans together to vertically integrate its electric vehicle production process. With regards the Mach-E EV and its potential launch in South Africa, Neale revealed that Ford has very clear plans and ambitions to be a player in the battery electric space. While they did not provide a specific timeline, it seems clear that Ford is committed to bringing their electric vehicles to market and expanding their electric vehicle portfolio.

Neale’s leadership journey is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. I hope you find this recent episode of The AutoBiography with Neale Hill, President of Ford Africa, inspiring and informative.