Representatives from STIHL SA and the global STIHL Group recently celebrated over 25 years of the brand’s presence in South Africa. STIHL SA was the group’s first sales and marketing subsidiary on the African continent, opened in November 1996 by Mr Hans Peter Stihl, a direct descendent of the group’s founder Andreas Stihl.
The 25th anniversary event was held at Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg and was attended by STIHL SA staff, STIHL dealers, as well as STIHL international representatives, Mr Norbert Pick (Executive Board Member for Sales and Marketing of the STIHL Group) and Johannes Wetzel (Regional Sales Manager for Africa and Asia). The 25th anniversary should have been held in 2021, but the July unrest and COVID restrictions necessitated the delay in celebrations.
A top-selling global brand
STIHL develops, manufactures, and distributes outdoor power equipment for forestry, agriculture, landscaping, construction, and discerning consumers. Internationally, the STIHL Group’s sales network consists of forty-two sales and marketing companies, approximately 120 importers and more than 55,000 independent, authorised dealers in over 160 countries. STIHL has been the world’s best-selling chainsaw brand since 1971.
Expansion into Africa
Norbert Pick (Executive Board Member for Sales and Marketing of the STIHL Group) said in his address to the 25th anniversary event guests, “South Africa is said to be the gateway into Africa and for STIHL this has been true. What we have learned in South Africa, we have been able to apply to other African markets. Just this week we officially opened our second STIHL sales subsidiary on the African continent, in Nairobi, Kenya. We have also recently opened a marketing office in Côte d’Ivoire. So, STIHL is on the move in Africa and looking forward to growing with our network of dealers throughout the continent.”
Pick continued, “Our subsidiary in South Africa is solidifying its position in Southern Africa. We will continue to invest in Africa and in the Southern African region. We came here to stay and to grow, no matter the challenges, which we have mastered and will continue to master in the future as well.”
The history of STIHL in South Africa
STIHL’s presence in the South African market began with an importer, Dowson & Dobson in 1956. Then, in 1962 a representative from the STIHL factory in Germany came to South Africa to establish an official importer here. One of his calls was to Motor & General Supplies, where it was his unenviable task to try to persuade a conservative management team to take on the role of official STIHL importer in South Africa. On his return to Germany, he had to tell Andreas Stihl that a large South African company had ordered a grand total of five chainsaws!
These first five chainsaws were duly shipped to South Africa for Motor & General to introduce STIHL to the local market. Despite this slow entry, these models were soon to become household names in the South African timber industry and subsequently Motor & General began importing Stihl chainsaws by the container-load, some 620 units at a time.
In 1982, David Hutton took over the management of the STIHL division of Motor & General. On his retirement in 2011, his son, Hayden Hutton, took over the reins as managing director of STIHL SA.
A lasting international legacy
STIHL’s history started in 1926 when Andreas Stihl founded an engineering office in Stuttgart. From there, in a quest to ease the demanding heavy labour of forestry work, he began the development of his first chainsaw. In 1927, Stihl launched this chainsaw, the electric trimming chainsaw with a 2.2kW electric motor weighing in at a hefty 48kg. He followed this with his first petrol chainsaw, the STIHL type A tree-felling machine in 1929. Andreas Stihl applied the principal of only supplying his products through specialist dealers who could provide expertise, guidance and excellent after-sales service, a corporate policy that exists to this day.
Hayden Hutton said in his address to the guests, “STIHL is a multigenerational business, and many third-generation family members are active in the business today, including Dr Nikolas Stihl, chair of the advisory board and the supervisory board, positions which he took over from his father, Hans Peter Stihl, son of the founder, Andreas Stihl. We have a generational story at the South African subsidiary as well, because I was fortunate enough to take over the management of the subsidiary upon the retirement of my father.”
He continued, “Whilst our 25th anniversary maybe the excuse to celebrate, it is not the only thing that we celebrate. It has taken tremendous effort from all of us to create what we all currently enjoy as part of the STIHL South African family. To all our dealers and to my staff, I would like to personally thank you for the contributions that you have made to the success of STIHL in South Africa. I am extremely excited about what the future holds. During the unrest last July, when our premises were destroyed and our stock looted, we stood together as a family. We relied on our strong relationships to maintain good cooperation internally and with you, our dealers. And from across the seas, the STIHL family, executive board, and staff in the headquarters and factories, all stood ready to lend a hand and to support us.”