BRIGHT SPARK DRIVES INNOVATION AND DIVERSIFICATION
NGK Spark Plug Australia Executive General Manager, John Wall, has built a long and successful career in the automotive aftermarket
Basing his approach on a unique set of ‘unwritten ground rules’ or ‘UGRs’ and an innate ability to match customer expectations to long-term business strategy, John is excited about the new opportunities which lay ahead.
“Truth be told, I have a fairly simple recipe for success,” John remarked.
“I continually review the expectations of our customers and the NGK Team and then aim to exceed those expectations daily.
“A large part of it is just to take the time to understand the expectations of those around you, then do a bit more and go above and beyond.”
Originally from Wagga, John moved to Sydney as an apprentice butcher. However, by the time he finished his apprenticeship he was ready for a new challenge and keen to start a career in the Automotive Industry.
While John openly admits he can still cook the perfect scotch fillet, mentioning that ‘low and slow’ is the only way to go, his passion for all things automotive drove him to work in various sectors within the industry including Clutch and Brake; Towing and Roof Rack Systems; Automotive Electrical and Lighting; and Canopy Systems.
Thirty-five years of automotive industry service later, John had cultivated a unique set of skills which lead to his opportunity to join NGK as its General Manager of Sales and Marketing in 2015.
When he commenced this new position with NGK in March of that year, John quickly identified the core values that he says set NGK apart from the rest.
“We’re humble, we strive for quality, the best range, the best supply rates and to offer the best service” John said before adding, “we feel we still have a long way to go, but we try.”
John explains that NGK’s core values are tied to what is known as ‘The Nittoku Way.’ This approach is instilled into the behaviour of all NGK Team Members and include two basic traits of ‘Quality Products’ and ‘Involvement by All’ and the following four core values:
• Shisei-Shinjitsu: Integrity
• Dokuritsu-Jiei: Initiative
• Shikai-Keitei: Diversity and Collaboration
• Soshi-Kantetsu: Passion and Perseverance
John says that while the next decade will certainly throw up new challenges for the automotive aftermarket, he is excited about meeting them head-on while discovering new opportunities to expand the already extensive NGK and NTK ranges.
“With such a complex car parc here in Australia/New Zealand, to ensure success it is critical to have the most extensive range of quality products to offer our customers,” John said.
“We partner with OE engine manufacturers on a global basis to ensure all NGK and NTK products meet specific engine requirements.
“This results in a product range where each part number is vehicle specific at the highest OE specifications, and aftermarket repairers get the benefit of this.
“I like to think that I take a fairly strategic view for the long game. I hate short term fixes and I love change, whether it’s structural change in the business or structural change of an industry.
“The automotive aftermarket has been going through a lot of change in the last twenty years, but I am confident that the industry is both progressive and adaptable to meet these challenges head on.”
When quizzed about customer engagement, John provided a great insight into his management style.
“While there is no doubt this is a complex business, I like to make things as simple as possible,” John explained.
“We are customer-focused; describing our customers as the people who throw the packaging in the bin. It is simple, to the point, and helps our business focus on what matters.”
NGK has an amazing history, but not many know that its origin and expertise extends far beyond the automotive industry.
“If it is ceramic, there will be potentially some NGK involvement or history,” John said.
Today you can find NGK semiconductors in electronic devices. Its ceramic cutting tools are popular in aerospace manufacturing, where fine tolerances are required.
NTK is not only the largest OE oxygen sensor manufacturer in the world, but is also a major player within the medical industry.
More recently, NGK acquired a global manufacturer of medical respirators – Caire – of which it has taken over the distribution in Australia and New Zealand.
“From the automotive side, our core competency is technical ceramics,” John explained.
“We have applied our technical ceramics expertise to develop what we consider the benchmark in spark plug, glow plug, and sensor technology.”
As you’d expect from world leaders in technical ceramics, NGK invests heavily in product development and innovation.
Its venture labs in America and Japan are currently working on projects that will take NGK and NTK beyond the 21st Century.
“We’re very confident about the future,” John remarked.
“The internal combustion engine is under pressure. From a global viewpoint, it will decline at different rates in different markets.
“Western Europe and North America are leading the early take-up of EVs, but without a doubt, we’ll see more and more EVs hitting the roads in Australia in the not-too-distant future.”
John says the business is well placed for the transition from combustion to electric-powered vehicles.
“The NTK side of the business will play a critical role in the future as electric vehicles will have more sensors than those powered by combustion engines. As a result, our NTK sensor range will grow over the next three to five years,” John said.
“NTK is a critical brand for us, moving forward. What a lot of people don’t realise is that globally our revenue from NTK is around the same as NGK and I am confident that as the popularity of EVs increase, we’ll see NTK grow exponentially.
“The cliché ‘Think Global, Act Local,’ although over-used, is still relevant and can challenge us sometimes.
“While we strive to continue our growth within the Automotive sector, we are also charged with expanding our business into other markets.
“We are constantly reviewing new opportunities not only in Automotive but also in aligned and totally new industries and markets.
“We have some exciting things in the pipeline and have restructured some elements of our business to drive this harder.”
NGK has been a long-time supporter of the AAAA, and moving forward John believes the association will deliver even more value back to members.
“The AAAA is critically important. You only have to look at the successes they’ve delivered over recent years, including the Right to Repair initiative, representing the aftermarket interests in the Telematics discussion, and the opening of the Innovation Centre to assist local product development and manufacturers,” John explained.
“These have been considerable investments in both time and money. The AAAA is the voice of the aftermarket to Local, State, and Federal bodies, including the ACCC.
“The AAAA goes about the business of representing all of us, never giving up. We urge all businesses and employees in our industry to not only support the AAAA but to get actively involved.”
It seems there is little doubt that while John is at the helm, NGK will continue to thrive in Australia with his long-term strategic focus sure to set the company in good stead to overcome challenges and grasp new opportunities as the Australian automotive aftermarket continues to evolve.
To find out more about NGK Spark Plugs visit www.ngk.com.au