Evolving an established local garage into a national pioneer does not happen overnight but what next? Rob Marshall reports from Cleevely Motors’ 60th anniversary to discover the latest news in its journey.
Few regular readers of AT would not have heard of Cleevely Motors of Cheltenham. This busy independent Gloucestershire family garage is now in its third generation, with Matt and Claire Cleevely overseeing a busy workshop, serving its local community, while nurturing its national repute.
Looking forward but not losing focus…
For the Cleevely family, the future is very much electric. This journey started officially just five years ago, when Cleevely Electric Vehicles was incorporated as a new sister company, with co-directors David and Samantha Smith. It was a brave move. With the pre-existing Cleevely Motors having to implement customer waiting lists of at least several weeks, it would have been logical to have simply expanded to cater for the immediate workload. Instead, Cleevely EV introduced more radical thinking, which has grabbed nationwide attention.
Yet, traditional repairs have not been abandoned. Since the pandemic, Cleevely Motors has moved from its original site to the Lansdown Industrial Estate and remains as busy as ever.
Even so, subsequent expansion into adjoining units has been due to increasing interest in the electric vehicle business. While EV hire and sales remain, the increased interest in high-voltage propulsion has led to Matt becoming one of the leading voices in the EV aftermarket. Instead of keeping hard-earned repair techniques close to his chest, Matt is disarmingly altruistic in his approach. As with any technician, his chief objective is to keep vehicles on the road, by making repairs as viable economically for owners as possible. His attitude extends to the aftermarket community, for whom he offers his premises as a base in which Pro-Moto delivers technician high-voltage training, as well as being a HEVRA member, where technicians assist each other with repair advice.
Time for celebration…
To commemorate 60 years of Cleevely Motors, the companies hosted a birthday celebration, twinned with an EV meet. Naturally, most of the focus was on Cleevely EV, although nods to the family’s past took centre stage, including the presence of Matt’s grandfather’s long-retired Land Rover Series One recovery truck and the immaculate Mini Mayfair that belongs to Shaun Cleevely, Matt’s Father.
The event also provided the businesses with a chance to highlight how they have evolved, post-pandemic. Aside from all Cleevely-related companies now being based at the same site for the first time, it also heralded a new company. Cleevely EV Mobile was established last year to bring repair services that Cleevely EV offers to customers directly and is enjoying strong demand. It also introduced a major new partnership. While Cleevely EV is not the first Castrol Service Agent, it is the first aftermarket garage to utilise Castrol ON EV fluids, which benefit the customer and vehicle, by enhancing range, permitting faster charging and extending the lifespan of high-voltage powertrains. Naturally, representatives from the Race Group were kept busy throughout the day to answer questions.
While potential and current customers were greeted with open arms, in typical Cleevely fashion, technicians from other garages were also welcome, including those curious about training and working on high-voltage vehicles for the first time. The event was also supported strongly by EV enthusiasts, in particular members of the Southwest EV Group, Dorset EVs and model-specific clubs, such as the Renault Zoe & E-Tech & Z.E. Owners Club.
Clearly, the celebrations of all things Cleevely could be described as nothing more than a success but what next for the businesses? Matt insists that training never ends and so expanding his team’s numbers and skills is a priority. He is practising what he preaches and is focussing on improving customer experience, before, during and after the vehicle leaves the workshop.
Selling the EV – five years on…
Matt believes that expansion into other areas should not be to the detriment of other parts of the business. Naturally, with more EVs entering the marketplace, high-voltage sales have grown organically. Yet, Cleevely EV could have been satisfied solely with its stock comprising primarily of used Nissan Leafs and Renault Zoes, with a smattering of Teslas. This is not the case.
Considering the beneficial role that EVs play in reducing urban air pollution levels, Cleevely EV has researched how Cheltenham could benefit from more local support with electric hackney carriages. As a consequence, it has since become an approved seller and service centre with the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), a firm owned by Geely Automotive (a Chinese firm that has a principal stake in Volvo,
for instance) and which assembles the vehicles in Coventry.
Yet, this is not all. An interesting development is Cleevely EV becoming a distributor and reseller of Carver electric tricycles. Apart from offering means of zero localised emission transport for last-mile trips especially, such vehicles can be driven on a motorcycle licence and tilt under cornering. Furthermore, they offer a relatively low-priced means of electric transportation – something that is worth considering in today’s cost-conscious times.