The incredible WeBuyCars story – from a single used-car dealership to listing on the JSE

WeBuyCars Dome

In just over 20 years, WeBuyCars has gone from a single used-car dealership in Pretoria to selling over 13,500 cars a month.

This transformed the company from a small family-owned business into South Africa’s dominant vehicle trader, set to be listed on the JSE in April 2024. 

At an investor presentation ahead of the company’s listing on the JSE later this year, Faan recounted the incredible story of WeBuyCars and its exceptional growth. 

The company was founded in 2001 by brothers Dirk and Faan van der Walt. Faan said it all began with an eye for a bargain and the enjoyment of discovering the price of cars.

From the beginning, it was clear that if you do not buy it right, then it will never work. It did not matter how good they were at selling cars – if you bought them for the wrong price, the business would fail. 

Faan said this is the “goose that lays the golden egg”. This saying is pinned on the wall in their offices to remind employees what made the company so successful. 

Dirk always wanted to go big and thus convinced Faan to put a billboard up on the N1 with them holding cash in hand, propelling them to become a household name in Gauteng. 

This forced them to open their first ‘supermarket’ in Pretoria, which could store 100 vehicles. In less than a year, they expanded their capacity to 700 vehicles. 

Dirk and Faan did all the work themselves for the first ten years. However, after launching a website, the brothers soon realised they would need to hire people to buy and sell cars across South Africa.

In 2014, they began appointing their first buyers in all major cities in South Africa and followed up this expansion with the launch of more supermarkets in Cape Town, Durban, and Centurion. 

It was key to appoint like-minded people in positions of responsibility, said Faan, but luck also played a part in their hiring processes. 

During this expansion, they began developing their own software capabilities to track buyer behaviour in real time and determine their pricing. 

Their chief digital officer, Wynand Beukes, explained that WeBuyCars now processes over 80 GB of data daily and has over 1 TB stored as historical data. 

Most impressively, the company has scaled organically by keeping all profits in the business and investing them in new supermarkets, employees, or stock. 

Faan and Dirk did not even draw salaries from the company during this phase to ensure as much of the profits as possible were reinvested in the business.

WeBuyCars has, in just over 20 years, grown from a company with two employees buying and selling a handful of cars a month to a 2,800-employee behemoth that bought and sold over 13,500 cars per month in 2023. 

Since Transaction Capital acquired a non-controlling 49.9% stake in the company in 2020, it has increased its trade volume ten times. 

At the beginning of 2024, Transaction Capital announced its intention to unbundle and separately list WeBuyCars on the main board of the JSE. 

To continue its growth, Faan said the company will remain focused on its current offering while expanding its financing and insurance business and its physical footprint across the country. 

They expect to double their market share in the next five years and have a buying pod in every town across South Africa and at least one within 10 km of everyone in big cities.