13 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Stock, aching and what a man

I had a visit from an old associate earlier this week – High Street Ken. He’s a local car dealer who was, until quite recently, based on our local high street, until the value of the plot in terms of putting in flats became to obvious to ignore, and he sold up and moved his operation to an edge-of-town site like mine. After all, with the internet, you don’t really need a shop window like he had. Besides, he owned the building outright so my rich friend has become richer. Apart from the location of his business, it was ironic that he really is called Ken, in that his wife’s name is Barbara…

Anyway Ken was looking to send some MOTs my way. What with our missing out on some future bookings after Mrs P accidentally shut down our Facebook page at the start of the year, we did unexpectedly have some stretch, so we worked out an arrangement. We don’t do his servicing, which he has done himself, but I do sometimes give some support on tricky diagnostic issues that his guys just can’t get to the bottom of. He’s not just High Street Ken because of where he was based; his stock was always what you would call aggressively mainstream. If it was pop music it would be Stock, Aitkin and Waterman. No, not Dennis Waterman; Kylie and Jason and all that. Back in the day his showroom was like a trip back five years to the local Ford outlet. Now it’s as if you have fallen down a hole and woken up in South Korea. So much KIA, so little time. I have always been amazed at his ability to totally shift the skills-set of his little team to whatever is popular, and then shift again when things are heading that way. I remember when all the cars there all seemed to be Peugeot, and he found this guy who probably had Talbot branded on his, well, never mind where, but he had followed through and was a Peugeot expert, and he helped shift them over. Then there was his Honda-heavy period when local wags in the trade suggested that he change the name of the dealership to “Sea of Japan” due to the sheer number of H-badges on display. Ken always saw where things were going, and shifted with the tide. I think we all do the same, but with him selling cars it was more obvious. He has also been very successful at it.

The funny thing is, despite the ongoing popularity and dominance of German marques, he’s never gone that way. I remember he had a visceral dislike of the venerable Beetle though. Maybe that’s why. Also, anything niche will really throw them. When they do a part-exchange on anything really exotic (it has happened, strangely) we have often benefitted by getting the work.

With winter on its way out, slowly as always, the aches and pains associated with the season are easing, so maybe I will be inclined to help him the next time he finds himself in possession of some sort of ridiculous European oddity.