Justin Divaris, CEO of Daytona, which sells luxury cars, has just opened a state-of-the-art showroom in Melrose Arch. Here he talks SA’s economy, supercar buyers and a luxe mattress.

Why open a new Daytona showroom now?

Over the past 15 years the business has expanded and all the brands we represent have expanded their product ranges into new categories — for instance, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin spreading into the SUV market and McLaren growing its hypercar segment. Naturally, this requires more showroom space and with that, the need to expand the workshop space. In addition, luxury retail is moving more into a lifestyle offering, so I saw this as an opportunity to create exactly that.

The new showroom houses the Naked coffee brand with a full-service bar and restaurant; we also offer meeting rooms, boardrooms and lounges. State-of-the-art sound systems and video walls add a unique energy to the space and the addition of the Melrose Gallery quarterly art exhibition cements the lifestyle appeal. Over and above the servicing elements offered by the workshop, it now includes an extensive car-detailing and car-care offering.

Who’s backing the venture?

The new building was a joint initiative between Daytona and Melrose Arch, with the Daytona business backed and run by the founder and majority shareholder, me.

Who is your target audience?

People who are passionate about high-end luxury and supercar enthusiasts who are luxury brand aficionados and deem our brands investments. Our customer profile is mostly successful SA businessmen and entrepreneurs.

What other brands would you like to represent and sell?

We’re already representing the brands I love. I am not looking to expand the offering because we cover all the segments in the luxury car market, and adding additional brands would create an overlap. We can’t be everything to everyone. If I was considering another brand, it would be Tesla, but unfortunately they don’t follow a distributor model, they do all their own retailing.

How do you grow a luxury business?

Our key focus has always been on consistent customer service, strong networking and database management. Furthermore, world-class facilities to service customer demands and a state-of-the-art workshop with internationally trained technicians are an enormous advantage.

What does the future of luxury goods in Africa look like?

Although the economy is tough at present, there is a growing market and I feel that demand will continue to increase. South Africans have a keen eye for brands and luxury products and our country has the unique ability to grow new billionaires and millionaires.

Are your buyers mainly from SA?

Mainly SA, but we do have clients in Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Swaziland and Mauritius.

People might be critical of opening a venture like this in a country with rampant unemployment and high levels of inequality. What are your views on this?

Yes, we are aware of this, but on the other end of the scale, we do have customers in this target market and through business growth are able to employ more than 300 staff. Also, by doing what we do, we assist in positioning SA as a brand leader, resulting in other international investment and SA being seen as capable of competing on the world stage. Take our new dealership, for example. It’s already been earmarked as one of the top showroom facilities in the world, one that global players want to mimic. On top of this, we officially house the largest McLaren dealership in the world.

What luxury item would you take to a desert island?

A Tempur mattress.

What next?

We’re working towards building a luxury lifestyle group that can service all the needs of my clients. This will encompass our other businesses that offer luxury timepieces (The Vault), art (the Melrose Gallery), clothing, dinner bookings (Jamie’s Italian) and homes — through various residential property developments in SA.

Your endgame?

To be the leading luxury lifestyle group in SA with the strongest UHNW (ultra high net worth) database.