On the heels of adding a new business line, large auto trader Stewart’s Automotive Group will be hosting its first job fair in mid-September in hope of netting talent in a competitive jobs market.
The company now has five auto business units, the latest being GWM Jamaica, which was launched in the second quarter of this year. The new dealership represents Chinese auto manufacturer Great Wall Motor Company, GWM, which produces four brands – Haval, Wey, Ora and GWM Pickup.
In Jamaica, Stewart’s now carries the GWM P-Series and Haval SUV lines that sell within a price range of US$47,533 to US$61,333, and is in the process of setting up a showroom for the new distributorship.
“Currently, we’re in an expansion phase,” said Brand Sales Manager Timothy Stewart.
“There are two other brands/vehicle lines from the GWM portfolio that we’ll be launching in the market in the near future,” he told the Financial Gleaner.
The company is investing at a period of recovery in the market, which industry sources say is up by about 20 per cent in the past year for new car sales. But what that represents in volume sales is unclear as Jamaica’s automotive sector is populated with private players who mainly keep their finances close to the chest, making market data on both the new and pre-owned car segments hard to come by.
However, as a proxy, the number of imported vehicles tend to give an indication as to whether the market is growing or waning. The current statistics from the Port Authority of Jamaica, which dates to July of this year, shows that overall vehicle imports, totalling 25,743 units through Kingston Wharves Limited, are up 11 per cent year-on-year.
Those numbers reflect ongoing recovery in the auto trade.
During the pandemic, the market suffered a fallout when commute dried up and lockdowns were the order of the day. But as the economy reopened and jobs market rebounded, business began to improve notwithstanding other challenges, including timely delivery of inventory.
Imports still below pre-pandemic levels
In the year of the pandemic, auto imports via Kingston Wharves fell to a low of 34,630 but was back on the upswing at 40,149 vehicles in 2022. Still, that number continues to underperform the pre-pandemic high of 48,885 vehicles.
“The new car market in Jamaica has demonstrated resilience and growth in the past year,” Stewart asserted. “This segment has also presented its own set of challenges, including supply chain disruptions and increased competition. Ensuring a consistent supply of high-demand models and managing pricing in the face of global economic fluctuations have been some of the key challenges we’ve navigated,” he said.
The new GWM Jamaica showroom is located at 49½ South Camp Road in Kingston, at the auto company’s main operating campus. GMW is number five in the company’s motor lines, which already include Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar Land Rover. It also distributes Honda bikes, commercial vehicles and industrial equipment.
Stewart’s Automotive Group is a fourth-generation family business in operation for 85 years. Its businesses also include Budget Car Rental, which operates a fleet of 900 vehicles; Jameco, a fleet manager of motor vehicles, construction equipment and consumables; Automotive Art, a retailer of aftermarket car care products and distributor of automotive products; Stewart Industrial, a distributor of commercial vehicles and industrial equipment; and Stewart Finance, which provides in-house financing for the vehicles sold by the group.
Stewart’s current staff complement is 602, but the company says it has positions to fill across the group, due to a rise in post-pandemic demand for its vehicles and services.
It’s seeking new hires in 17 skill categories, including automotive technicians.