13 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

At the RingMechanika day run at the Ring/OSRAM H.Q in Leeds in May, one of the highlights was the workshop solutions van. The two companies use this to keep garages up to date with their latest products. In partnership with sales staff from factor partners like Motor Serv, Ring and OSRAM’s Ehsan Ali traverses the nation in what is effectively a mobile shop window and live action catalogue all rolled into one.
During the summer, Aftermarket took the opportunity to hop on board as Ehsan and the van made their way around Cambridgeshire, starting at the Motor Serv branch in Cambridge itself, and ending up at the nearby village Over.

Working with Ehsan on the day was Frazer Dunn, Motor Serv Business Development Manager. “I look after Cambridge Motor Serv branch,” he said.  “We make appointments with the customers so we can visit them and make them aware of what we’ve got.” According to Frazer, this kind of live experience works really well: “It’s been very successful. When they’ve seen it in here, they order it and it goes through to our branch.”    
Eshan has been the man in the van for about a year now: “It has been really good. Mechanics prefer to touch, feel and use the products.” With only one van for the whole of the UK at present, Ehsan is a busy man: “We cover everywhere, we have one van and one of me.” With that, we were off.

Our first stop took us a few miles up the road to Bottisham and local garage EC Autocare. Frazer’s contact at the garage was Tony who came out to view what was available on board. When asked how useful having a visit like this was, particularly on a busy Monday, Tony observed: “It’s a good thing, because we haven’t got time to go and have a look. We might be able to look through a catalogue, but you don’t actually see what it’s like, what the quality of it is. If you can see it, then you get a good insight into what you’re buying and what you’re actually getting. For me, it’s a win all round. You have a look. They’ve got something there that you want, you buy it. If you don’t get it on the day, you keep it in mind.” Tony was only buying a few small items, but took interest in a OSRAM work light, and then bought some headlight bulbs for his own car.
This was still a good result for Frazer though: “He’s getting a few things today, but then now he’s got the brochure, so he could bring into the branch and order.”
Ehsan interjected: “Sometimes it is difficult because the mechanics don’t have a lot of time when they come on, so you’ve got to try to engage him straight away. I don’t like to be too pushy though either because it’s about awareness. I don’t want them to think I am just trying to sell them something.”
Collaborating with a BDM from the factor also means the full Ring/OSRAM range gets the attention: “Teaming up with the factor, the reps will know what we do as well. Garages often just think we  just sell bulbs. They don’t realise what other big-ticket items we have.”

The fuller extent of the offering came into play at our next stop, a few more miles in the other direction. Box Hill Motors serves the eponymous Cambridge suburb of Box Hill, and conveniently sits next door to local used car dealership Urban Car Company, who use Box Hill Motors for MOTs etc. First out was Stuart Saunders from Urban Car Company, who was interested in buying a battery charger. “We see the guys from Motor Serv about once a quarter. This is the first time I’ve seen the Workshop Solutions van. It’s a nice set up. Sometimes you just need to see things in the metal before you can really decide.
“It’s always better, especially if it’s something that’s a few quid. If you ring up and say what you got, what are the options? They can only answer your question, oh, you’ve got this. If you ask how heavy something is, they can’t really tell you how heavy I or the mechanics here will find it.”
He added: “I’m looking at a battery jump pack for our cars. It’s got to be light enough to be able to move around. I also need to know how big the clamps are, because the clamps have been an issue before.”

At this point, Phil Reynolds from Box Hill Motors emerged from the workshop, for what turned out to be a stream of short visits, each one resulting in a purchase. Commenting on the van, Phil said: “Everybody does something different and it’s good to get to know what each manufacturer brings to you. Then if it comes in a van, you can remember what it was. It’s as handy as browsing through the catalogues, as or even Aftermarket magazine. You might see something and think ‘oh that’s a good idea’. It gives you an insight of what’s going on.” Phil and his wife Sharon  took on the garage originally in 2002. While it looked like a typical edge-of-town industrial estate setting, they are actually sat behind a Tesco superstore. With the car dealership next door, they have a steady stream of customers.
As Frazer pointed out, when it comes to this kind of enterprise, it is the owner of the garage or the workshop manager that they are looking to engage with: “We want the person who  can make decisions to come aboard.”
Explaining how the customers pay for the items they acquire via the van, as Phil returned for four dash cams, before coming back a third time to look at some of the lighting products, Eshan said: “They pick something they want, but they don’t pay on the van. They pay on account after 30 days. If they buy quite a bit of stuff, the sales rep might say you could pay over 60 days.”

Aftermarket’s last stop with the van took us to Over Garage, where we spoke to technician Sean Tipple. While the guys were not buying anything that day, they did appreciate the visit:  
“It’s nice to see what’s new and what’s out there. Today we are having a quick look to see what we might need in future.”
With that, Aftermarket opted to get off for the day. Summing up, Eshan said: “Sometimes, people come on board, not looking to get anything but an item they did not know we did will catch their eye. In the end it’s about letting everyone know what we do and showing them the special offers.” Frazer concluded: “The visits we have done today have been very successful. It’s been brilliant.”