Tales from the workshop floor – In conjunction with Trevor West, of Westech Cars near Basingstoke, Hampshire, Iain Robertson discovered the value of leading brand alliance that enables some business latitude but also insists on systemic image enhancement for success.
In some respects, being an independent garage owner can be more like shopkeeping than exercising professional rights. Naturally, most garages are specialists in one field, or another. Yet, the most fortuitous route to business stability has to be via a branded manufacturer. When that brand is one of the three, world-recognised premium labels (the other two being Mercedes-Benz and Audi), tolerating the inevitable politics of BMW does not have to be a chore.
As Trevor outlines: “When I worked for one of the leading BMW dealer groups in Hampshire, it would be fair to say that the ‘do it like we say and do’ culture made an impression. Around a decade ago, at the age of 35 years, I started to ponder about whether I enjoyed a living-to-work stance, when I had a wife and son at home. Something had to change.”
Forming Westech Cars removed Trevor from the corporate philosophy but retaining links to BMW opened the doors
to an enterprise that has scarcely given him time to reflect. While Rolls-Royce is not a brand with which he owns up to having more than a passing relationship, both Mini and BMW constitute his lifeblood. “Building a reputation, even with direct links to BMW, takes time but, as an authorised outlet for factory diagnostics, maintenance, repairs and an MOT Centre, our customer spread has grown from older models to include the very latest examples”, he states.
“Interestingly, while BMW training is exceptional, the additional freedom associated with an independent garage outlet is like a self-fulfilling prophesy. Needless to say, we do not charge main dealer rates, because we do not have to cover their glitzy overheads, which pays dividends to our customer base. Yet, maintaining the links to both BMW brands demands that we have the factory diagnostic capabilities and must carry the appropriate dedicated tools, none of which are inexpensive.”
An additional customer benefit lies in Westech not being a BMW dealership. By the very nature of garage services, ‘distress’, not just when receiving the invoice but needing to visit the premises in the first place, is alleviated. Trevor and his entire team, which consists of two master mechanics, one of whom was actually the apprentice to Trevor, when he worked for the dealership, a young apprentice and his wife work in an agreeably democratic environment. The business location on an immaculate industrial park adjacent to and owned by a local Kingsclere farmer also aids Westech’s image.
“I suppose that being ‘on a farm’ might put off some people,” he suggests, “but we are friendly and welcoming, a factor that has created a huge percentage of customer retention. We are also trusted to resolve issues that the main dealers sometimes cannot. However, housekeeping is one of our most impressive attributes.”Trevor’s premises have grown exponentially over the past decade but, while eating off the floor is not recommended, a picnic might be possible. The place is immaculate, which has a positive impact on all visitors, while also satisfying BMW’s remit, as a fortunate adjunct.
“It’s everything to do with attitude,” he explains, “which starts with the entire team cleaning up after themselves, whether in the office, waiting room, or in the workshop. If our customers allow it, we even ensure that their cars leave us in a better visual state, than when they arrived. It is a vital element of our servicing package.”
Trevor has future-proofed his business by ensuring that he and his colleagues know and comprehend BMW’s electrification strategy, each of them receiving BMW training that includes working on EVs. “By displaying the utmost confidence in our capabilities,” he concludes, “we do relieve the pressures placed on our customers and they spread the word most effectively for us.”
Having motor manufacturer allegiance does place Westech Cars under specific guidelines but Trevor is fully aware that his independent status means that he can work-to-live more effectively and shutting the doors at the close of the working day means that his family can take precedence. It is a workable, profitable and satisfying relationship.