MOTORING NEWS - After an illustrious career in the South African motor industry, Desmond Seaman died in St George’s Hospital on Saturday 21 December after a short illness.
Seaman, 87, who grew his business from a small service station to the internationally recognised Seaman’s Motor Group, also left his mark in the Garden Route where he opened two branches of Seaman's Renault - one in George in 1989 and soon afterwards a branch in Knysna.
Veteran motoring journalist Bobby Cheetham said Seaman had set the bar high.
“He was recognised internationally as a top motoring industry guy in South Africa. He was known to everybody in the business as ‘Mr Renault’ because he founded what is today the oldest Renault dealership in South Africa and at one stage he was the only guy selling cars from the French manufacturer here.”
Seaman was born in the Eastern Cape Karoo town of Middelburg and grew up in nearby Somerset East.
His family had since the 1920s run a thriving motor business there and in Graaff-Reinet.
His father died when he was 11 and he went to Oudtshoorn Boys High as a boarder.
He became head boy of the school and played rugby for the South Western District schools side and also represented Western and Eastern Province, Border and Natal in athletics.
After school, instead of joining the family motor business, he studied pharmacy at the Port Elizabeth Technical College.
After that he worked in a number of Port Elizabeth pharmacies before joining American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly as marketing manager and moving to Johannesburg.
In 1970, he spotted an opportunity back in Port Elizabeth, and opened a Shell service station next to the Kahn Brothers building in what was then Main Road in Port Elizabeth’s central business district.
Pharmacy’s loss was the motor industry’s gain and he never looked back, his son Craig said.
“That was the beginning of Seaman’s Motors and after that he got the Citroen and Fiat franchises and then in 1974-75 he got the Renault franchise.”
In 1998, Seaman’s Motors added the the Kia franchise to their stable and at the same time opened a branch in George and then Knysna, Craig said.
Besides running his own business in later years in partnership with Craig and his son-in-law Stephen Kenny, Seaman was involved in the National Automobile Dealers Association and the Retail Motor Industry Organisation.
He was a committed Rotarian and was honoured as a fellow of Rotary International.
Craig said his father had been an old fashioned man.
“He was stern but fair. He had a lot of knowledge to share and a cool head. As far as he was concerned you did things the right way or not at all. Business for him was about good ethics and that’s what put him on top. He was also a very kind man and was always willing to help those less fortunate although he never talked about it.”
Seaman’s Motor Group administration manager Jillian Arnold said Seaman would be hugely missed.
Seaman lost his wife of 60 years Moira in August. He leaves his children Craig and Debbie and five grandchildren.
Article by Guy Rogers, courtesy of The Herald, heraldlive.co.za.
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