Role with It

As the National Service Manager at Isuzu Australia Limited, Brett Stewart oversees the aftercare and service arm of Australia’s biggest selling truck brand.

Brett Stewart either thanks or blames his grandfather for his inspiration to decide upon a career in the realm of car and truck servicing.

“He was pretty handy on the tools and from a young age he had me swinging spanners”, recalls Brett, who is currently the National Service Manager at Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL).

“He gave me a hand in learning how to do things and how to fix stuff properly. It really did give me a good grounding in understanding that whole mechanical side of the industry.”

After qualifying as an automotive mechanic, Brett fulfilled his ambition to move on to become a truck mechanic and continued to draw upon the mechanical empathy he had instilled in him as a child.

Brett, however, ultimately transitioned from the workshop to the four-walls of an office which he concedes presented a steep learning curve at the time, but also provided him the opportunity to broaden his horizons and increase his expertise in the industry.

For some time he had a role managing the maintenance for several major concrete companies on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Following this, Brett returned home to Geelong to take up a similar position with a national transport company fleet.

Prior to his current role as National Service Manager at Isuzu, Brett was National Service Technical Manager where the main activity was identifying product issues and working with Isuzu in Japan to either come up with solutions or potentially resolve reworks or recalls.

“In that role I certainly needed to have an in-depth technical understanding of how things work on trucks,” he says.

“I spent a long part of my career working in OEM workshops and also in truck repair workshops and fleet workshops which provided great experience across the industry. I had to have a good handle on what the challenges are for, say, a fleet customer compared to the challenges found in a retail workshop or as against the differences found in an OEM workshop.”

In his mechanic days, Brett wanted to obtain a broader understanding of the truck service industry and progressed through a number of roles.

“Whenever an opportunity came up to look after a different part of the business, whether that be in the fleet or the retail side, I’d jump on those chances and that led me to a more desk-based position,” he opines.

Having joined Isuzu Australia limited ten years ago, Brett came on board first as a technical consultant providing support via the telephone to the entire dealer network.

Being the only person for a whole network was a challenge and again he drew upon his in-depth technical understanding of diagnostics and how electronics and mechanicals components work.

Coinciding with the release of the new N Series, Isuzu announced that the range’s warranty would be extended to an industry leading six years or 250,000 kilometres.

This extraordinarily long warranty may be good for the marketers, but Brett considers it a validation of how the brand can capitalise on its commitment to quality and its ‘reliability is everything’ ethos which extends beyond the physical vehicles and goes to the level of support IAL provides to not just its dealers, but its customers as well.

Brett Stewart, back when he was on the tools in the workshop.

“There are certainly a few factors to the reasoning behind why we decided to move to that longer warranty. From where I sit in the company, one of the best things I have found at Isuzu is their level of customer support. It’s one of the things which attracted me to the business in the first place. We’re all focused towards the customer at Isuzu and that’s not just a tag line, and honestly it’s what has kept me at Isuzu.”

Brett explains some of the reasoning behind the decision to double the warranty period.

“Over the years, and often well beyond the warranty periods, we were supporting our customers extremely well anyway. We wanted to crystallise that with an offering that we can put up on the wall so to speak, and say this is how much we back our product,” he says.

“Not just that it, shows the level of customer support that we are willing to provide and it was also about providing peace of mind for the customer for that first life-cycle ownership period to make sure they had the confidence in the product and they knew that the factory was there to look after them for that period. It’s something that we’d always done anyway but it hadn’t been put up on the wall.”

The development of electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (HFCEVs) will ultimately result in a paradigm shift in vehicle servicing and Brett and his team are cognisant of the impending changes

“You can see in the whole EV space there is going to be very little maintenance on those vehicles in the future and depending on how those products get rolled into the market, whether that’s under a lease program or a true ownership model, there is always going to be a level of diagnostic activities that need to happen on those vehicles because they’ll still have components such as electronics modules,” Brett says.

“There will be a level of training that will need to be pushed out to our dealer network to make sure we are upskilling the technicians in the field.

“The next question is when is that going to happen because we are still selling pretty much 100 per cent internal combustion (ICE) vehicles at the moment and the average life for an Australian truck is 13 to 14 years,” says Brett.

“My opinion is that ICE will still be a huge segment for the next 20 to 30 years. Certainly EVs and HFCEVs will creep into that space. There’s a big unknown about that timeline. There certainly will be a level of upskilling required within the network and you see that in the car industry already with the upskilling of car mechanics. The truck industry always lags a little bit behind the car industry and there are different challenges with factors such as loads.”

Brett Stewart remains conscious of his roots as an apprentice and appreciates the varied journey of his professional life.

“You realise pretty quickly that the reason you can have success in those more corporate and managerial roles is because of all that experience you’ve had in the workshop and working right alongside people on the front line of service,” he says.

“If you were to tell me when I was a first year apprentice sweeping the workshop floor that I’d be National Service Manager for the biggest selling brand in Australia I would have laughed at you.”

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