A brief overview of Willard’s history

For over 65 years, Willard has been forging its way into new frontiers. Throughout this time, we have served with excellence and kept the South African battery market fully charged and ready for the road.

How it all started …

 South Africa first came across the Willard name in 1914 when ESB International Corporation, also known as Electric Storage Batteries (ESB) of Philadelphia in the United States, established the first battery service station in Johannesburg. While this service station is believed to have been the first of its kind in the country, it was one of many that were established at various centres across South Africa around the same time. Entry into the market was a real pioneering effort from ESB and marked the start of a brand that has remained invested in the country.

ESB, who was founded in 1888 in Philadelphia in the USA, was one of the most prominent battery manufacturers in the world that produced batteries for submarines during World War II and the Mariner II spacecraft which successfully probed the atmosphere around Venus. ESB also initiated the development of various types of batteries including small, hand-sized batteries, amongst other pioneering contributions to history’s timeline.

Thus, in 1954, on the corner of Stanford and Lindsey Roads in Korsten, Port Elizabeth, a new era of automotive and industrial manufacturing on African soil was birthed.

To build this incredible business from the ground up, in such a competitive market, has taken exceptional strength. From the very first days as Willard Africa, to the present day resilient, innovative and resolute Willard, the business has weathered many a storm, and overcome numerous challenges. It has tenaciously excelled and stood up to every challenge, working steadily toward creating ever greater opportunities.

What it looks like now …

Today, Willard is people and customer-centric to its very core. Longstanding employees agree that the vision of one of the country’s most loved and trusted brands, is largely due to our remarkable and consistent leadership and staff. During significant macro-industry changes the company has enjoyed a measure of stability which allowed it to, during periods of great change, build dedicated and committed teams of employees.

Success can obviously only be achieved in businesses which remain focused on quality, brand-building, and clear, sincere communication. Naturally, customer expectations and requirements must be met, if not exceeded. What Willard has consistently managed to get right is getting the right products in the right hands, at the right time.

Rated amongst consumers as their favourite battery brand of choice, Willard remains committed to supplying batteries to an ever-increasing market while still contributing to economic growth through local manufacturing. At Willard we’re excited to see just how far the Power of Technology can take us.

Some of the highlights throughout Willard Batteries’ history include:

➤ 1954 – Willard Batteries, distributed in South Africa since 1914, are manufactured in Port Elizabeth for the first time under license from ESB International Corporation.

➤ 1966 – Willard Batteries introduces industrial batteries and produces its first locomotive-starting batteries.

➤ 1981 – 100% of Willard Batteries’ shares are acquired by Power Technologies, a division of Altron Limited.

➤ 2001 – Willard Batteries receive ISO 14001 Environmental Management System accreditations.

➤ 2012 – Sealed Maintenance-Free (SMF) batteries are introduced to the market.

➤2013 – Willard Batteries launch the first of many limited-edition batteries, starting with the ‘Pink Battery’ in support of breast cancer.

➤ 2015 – Willard Batteries’ limited edition ‘Rhino Battery’ is launched focussing on rhino conservation.

➤ 2017 – Willard Batteries launch limited edition ‘Red Battery’ in support of blood donation.

➤ 2019 – Willard Batteries launch limited edition ‘Blue Battery’ highlighting the threat that plastic poses to our oceans.

➤ 2020 – Willard Batteries extends its offering to include AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries.

We started our journey so that we could be part of every one of yours. We grow so that you can too.  Here’s to cutting edge, safe and reliable batteries for the next 65 years.