Business News

From Competitors to Partners: A new legacy - 10 years on

9th August 2022

Following the successful merger of two legacy companies, GasanZammit Motors Ltd broke away from its previous identities to begin a new chapter. A decade on, Joe Zammit and Joe Gasan reflect on how combining strengths was an important milestone for the company’s continuation and growth.

In 2012, two leading companies in the automotive industry joined forces to establish GasanZammit Motors Ltd. Led by Joe Gasan, Chairman, and Joe Zammit, Director – two founding partners who were both heavily invested in the auto imports industry since adolescence – a successful merger took their family businesses to new heights, albeit as one. “The merger has been a most successful one. Maybe the only real regret was not having done this sooner!” says Gasan. Following in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps, Joe Gasan joined his family’s business at the tender age of 15. By age 23, he had helped expand Gasan Group’s portfolio to bring the Mazda, Yamaha and, later on, Volvo franchises to the Maltese Islands during the 1980s, apart from being the official sole concessionaire for Ford Motors. At the same time that Gasan Group was being formed in the early 1920s, Joe Zammit’s grandfather was preparing to establish his own company in the then-commercial business hub, Barriera Wharf in Valletta, away from his home in Gozo. When Zammit’s father joined his grandfather’s business in the 1930s, he was committed to diversifying the company and would eventually introduce Joe and his brothers to the world of work. Zammit’s career began at 16, when Zammit Group was the main contractor for Her Majesty’s Royal Navy ships. It was only when a Japanese floating exhibition vessel visited Malta in 1956 that Zammit’s father expanded the business to import cars. One year later, Zammit Group began to import the Isuzu brand for vans and trucks, the Toyota brand for cars and the Honda brand for bikes, marking the start of a new chapter for this family business. As they learnt the ropes at their respective family businesses, Gasan and Zammit both took on a key role in shaping their companies’ futures. “My focus was on the diversification and expansion of our business involvements.

I wanted to capture a significant part of the insurance market, introduce cable television to Maltese households and implement largescale mechanical and engineering projects,” says Joe Gasan. “Still, I was always very immersed in the automotive business, particularly the management of the relationship with our numerous franchisors.” In the 1970s, Zammit also became more involved in the automotive sector, as his father took a back seat. “At this point, I had identified a need to move to a larger premises to exhibit our expansion in this sector. Honda had diversified into the automotive, marine and power product sectors and I had also acquired the GM brands. While being involved in the general business, I was always particularly hands-on in the automotive sector; I used to travel frequently to build relationships with franchisors and I oversaw all financial and strategic decisions,” says Zammit. As two companies with decades-long histories of successful trading in the automotive industry, Gasan and Zammit had developed a sense of mutual respect, which was not overshadowed by the healthy competitiveness that existed between them. Thus, when faced with market demand contractions and external challenges that inhibited their individual growth, the path toward a potential merger began to reveal itself. Ever since the next generation of both families joined the companies, the founding partners have taken on a mentorship role. In fact, the initial exploratory talks about the merger were held by their sons who, at the time, formed part of the same automotive association board. “These talks gradually evolved into more formal discussions at our respective board levels, and agreement in principle was reached in just a few weeks,” says Gasan. Soon after, a working committee was established involving Mark Gasan, Alastair Zammit, Carolyn Zammit and Stefan Deguara. This committee was tasked with developing a detailed plan to get the merger executed within a timeframe of six months, including obtaining formal approval from their international franchisors, as well as local regulatory approvals. They also organised other departments including financial, human resources, marketing and public relations, in addition to sourcing physical facilities to accommodate their growing setup.

Since the start of the merger talks, all members’ objectives were clear: GasanZammit Motors would take on a new identity, leveraging the best practices of the preceding companies. “Our core values were very similar, but we both had our strengths which we wanted to consolidate via the merger,” says Zammit. As a result, GasanZammit adopted a human-centric work ethic based on its core values of empowerment, respect and unity. These values were the guiding force in shaping the post-merger future of the company, during which all members focused on perfecting their traditional systems and practices. This included rewiring the new entity’s internal processes and extracting synergies across all operational areas. Still, change doesn’t come without challenges. Every member of staff needed to be open-minded in adapting policies that they had become accustomed to. With their cooperation, GasanZammit has gone from strength to strength in the decade since the merger. In keeping with its people-first approach, the company was able to retain all staff members and create opportunities for new team members to join the company. Furthermore, in December 2015, the company was appointed the official transport partner of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that was held in Malta, and raised over €400,000 for the Malta Community Chest Fund through auctioning of the vehicles used during the event. “Throughout this 10-year journey, we have had consistent harmony and stability in dealings, which we believe is fundamental for the new culture we created,” Gasan explains. This consistency is something that the company will be carrying through to the next generations, sustaining its presence within the automotive market and other sectors, irrespective of the direction the market takes. “We want to keep foreseeing the changes in consumer demand and developing new offerings that address changing needs,” says Zammit. Among these challenges is the shift towards electrification, changing skillsets needed to sell and repair new vehicles, the evolution of new mobility solutions and new modes of vehicle ownership and usage. But the new generations leading GasanZammit Motors are proactive in their preparations to tackle any challenges. With the guidance and mentorship of both founding partners, the future of the company is set to be strategically sound and aligned with their core principles.

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From Competitors to Partners: A new legacy - 10 years on