VALE: JIM DEAN
Across a highly successful career of more than five decades, Jim made a real impact on the Australian Aftermarket industry
Frank and Di Hutchinson and family and all of the staff of the Don Kyatt Group of companies, along with the members and staff of the AAAA, mourn the recent loss of esteemed friend and industry stalwart, James (Jim) Dean.
Jim worked at Don Kyatt for 40 years, rising from motor mechanic to General Manager and in that time helped to navigate the company to where it is today as one of the world’s leading 4WD companies.
Starting as Service Manager and progressing through the ranks, Jim became the General Manager of the Don Kyatt Group and spearheaded many programs and initiatives that helped the company grow into the success it is today, overseeing the growth of the Terrain Tamer and Flashlube brands both locally and overseas.
Jim’s automotive career started as an apprentice mechanic with GV Clark Motors, a Victorian distributor of Bedford Truck and Bus Parts through General Motors. There he met Frank Hutchinson, a Parts Interpreter who soon branched off to start his own business with the late Don Kyatt.
Fatefully, Frank advertised a mechanic’s position within that company 10 years later, at the same time Jim was looking for a new role. When Frank saw Jim’s application, it was a chance he was more than willing to take.
Over the following 40 years, the two men grew the company to employ almost 150 staff exporting their aftermarket 4WD replacement parts into their 16 warehouses, (including five abroad) and selling into more than 80 countries around the world through more than 3500 direct distributors.
Much of Jim’s success could be accredited to a rare trinity of mechanical expertise, a keen business mind, and a naturally genial personality. These attributes helped him lead the company into the design and manufacture of a catalogue of more than 40,000 different hard-wearing, quality aftermarket parts; many of which were awarded for their innovative designs and surpassing their genuine equivalent.
In the early days as Don Kyatt’s Service Manager, Jim developed the company’s reconditioning program, which at its prime saw the company become the biggest manufacturer of Bedford Reconditioned Engines in Australia. This was a forerunner for the company’s offering today which includes gearboxes, transfer cases and engines for popular 4WD models.
The program was a huge contributing factor to Don Kyatt being named the official Bedford Genuine Parts distributor in Australia by Bedford UK.
Similarly, he was key in orchestrating the purchase of not only the entire stock of Bedford Third-Arms from the company’s UK manufacturer, but also the tooling, on a hunch that a highly publicised bus accident would see a change in legislation regarding the part.
Soon after, buses were legally required to be fitted with the part and Don Kyatt was able to sell all purchased stock direct to Bedford Bus Operators across Australia.
Jim also fronted the Terrain Tamer Tooling program where he developed and built exclusive tooling for 4WDs, often improving on the original.
He was also key in the development of the company’s Flashlube Kits, spending years researching and developing the brand’s Valve Saver Kits, the first in the world to be granted highly sought after German TUV approval in a road test, as well as the ECUs, self-priming pumps and plug and play cables that feature in every Electronic Valve Saver Kit sold around the world and have been responsible for two innovation awards.
In the early days, outback tour drivers like Bill King, who started AAT Kings, relied on Jim’s knowledge and parts to ensure they didn’t break down in the remote outback. This inspired Don Kyatt to design and develop parts that would solve the weaknesses that they saw in customer’s vehicles and take them to the world.
That demand grew past the company’s loyal customer base of early bus operators, local workshops and enthusiasts, to include the mining, agriculture and emergency service industries, both here and abroad; now stretching across more than 80 countries to the likes of Senegal, Uzbekistan, Bolivia, and even Iceland.
Jim attended many Trade Missions, visiting countries such as China, India, Dubai and parts of Africa as well as SEMA exhibitions in the US and Automechanika Frankfurt.
In the mid-90s, with a backpack full of Flashlube Valve Saver Kits, Jim left his young family behind with the open-ended task of finding a European distributor who could help tap into the LPG/CNG market.
The trip was the beginning of a new export chapter for the business, and 15 years later Jim found himself back there, tackling the issue of a growing European 4WD market, starved of local supply.
Beyond his business nous, Jim was known as a people-person with a genuine friendliness and understanding of human nature that has not only endeared him to family, friends and colleagues, but also given him a natural edge with customer and supplier relations alike.
These skills translated across cultures, helping Jim source suppliers in areas where language is a barrier. His strong work ethic, positivity and friendliness, coupled with a persistence, passion and determination to solve complex problems have carried him forward to make real change in both the automotive aftermarket industry and the lives of those he worked with throughout what proved to be an exceptional career and life.
Jim will be remembered for the incredible love and respect that he gave to his fellow employees, customers, suppliers and opposition companies and the way that he treated them all on the same high level in life.
His presence will be sadly missed by all who have benefited from having him in their lives.