After a distinguished 40-year career with Toyota New Zealand, Steve Prangnell, the company’s Vice President of Sales and Operations, has announced that he will be retiring at the end of this year.
Steve’s longstanding career has seen him navigate significant change within the sector over four decades, beginning with his first role on the floor of Toyota’s Hornby factory in Christchurch in 1983, before shifting to the corporate headquarters in Wellington and then Palmerston North. His career spans several business lines, including parts and assembly, new and used vehicle sales, franchise development, distribution, and logistics.
Steve has held numerous leadership positions within the company and was intimately involved in several major projects that were transformative for Toyota New Zealand, including the evolution of Toyota to becoming a full-service car distributor, and the transformation of the Toyota business from a dealership to an agency model, known as the Drive Happy Project. He attributes his longevity with the company to building reciprocal trust and respect through action, not words.
Toyota New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Neeraj Lala, says that Steve has demonstrated exceptional leadership and – for lack of a better word – drive throughout his time at Toyota.
“Steve’s time with Toyota New Zealand coincides with the company becoming a market leader in 1988. Steve has been a critical figure in maintaining that market leadership. The thing for me that best defines Steve’s 40 years at Toyota is his focus on developing personal relationships. Much of Toyota’s success comes from the fact that we’re embedded in the communities we serve – understanding what they want and need. Steve has been integral to that, ensuring that Toyota delivers the best customer experience it possibly can.
“Steve has been invaluable for Toyota, and I’ll sincerely miss him on both a personal and a professional level,” says Neeraj.
Steve Prangnell says that he is leaving the company at the best possible time, as it looks ahead to its future as a mobility company and the opportunities associated with the switch to a low-carbon future.
“The thing that has kept me with Toyota is that I love the brand – I love it so much. I couldn’t envisage having worked for any other car company. But the time is right – Toyota has a huge opportunity as New Zealand’s leading mobility provider, with the best customer experience, and there is a new energy and a new focus that makes it feel like this is the best time to hand over the reins.
“I have given the best 40 years of my life to Toyota, and it’s given me the best 40 years of my life back. Forty years ago, my manager at the Hornby factory identified a little glimmer of talent, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity,” he says.
Steve has agreed to stay on in an interim advisory role to support Toyota through the transition of his role and to support the development of the Toyota franchises. Beyond that, he has expressed a desire to have an active retirement and will pursue several personal projects, including the possibility of setting up a new business to create jobs for people with disabilities.
Steve’s favourite vehicle he’s owned was a 1993 MkIV RZR Toyota Supra, which he bought in the 1990s as a Toyota Signature Class import.