FiveStar Autocentre have been featured in the May issue of Aftermarket Magazine with the following feature.
Aftermarket is this month in Huddersfield to visit Top Garage 2019 finalists Five Star Autocentre
Sitting literally above the franchised dealers in one of the high points of Huddersfield, Five Star Autocentre is a well-established local business, serving both individuals and businesses in the area. With a seven-bay workshop in an attractive older commercial property, owner and founder Asif Ali employs five technicians and a number of support staff, all aiming to get top marks from the customers.
“We do MOTs, servicing and repairs and ADAS calibrations,” said Asif. “We have the equipment for the majority of vehicles so we can programme and do the rest of it, day-in-day-out.”
Customers come in all shapes and sizes. Who does Five Star Autocentre generally see? “We see all sort,” explained Asif. “We see private customers, as in the general public, doctors, nurses, etc. On the business side we work with bodyshops. We have contracts with some major bodyshops locally. They bring all of their vehicles in where they might need a new lockset fitted or new programming, radar calibration, ECU replacement, programming, all that stuff. The main bodyshops we have are DLG Autoservices and Alton Cars. We have quite a few big companies that use us because of our turnaround and our abilities. We can offer turnaround within 24 hours.”
Asif continued: “If I defined the split between b2b and b2c, I’d say it is 70% b2c, 30% b2b. It was not a conscious decision to build that up, it has just evolved over time. It is a good thing, and we go from strength to strength every year.”
We clearly picked the right week to call in: “On 28 March,” said Asif, “the business had been officially open for 10 years.”
He then explained how it all came to pass: “Before opening Five Star Autocentre, I worked at the Toyota main dealers. I worked there for just under 10 years.”
He made good use of his time there: “When I was there, they put us in groups and we were sent down to London. We spent a week working towards our exams. At the time there were 17 of us on the course, and only myself and one other person passed. I was the youngest to have the Master Tech qualification, and I was only 21 at the time.”
Nothing lasts forever though: “Eventually, I had come to the end of the road where I was. I had progressed to the top of my field, so there was really nowhere to go. I was a Master Technician in the dealership, but there was not that drive there for me any longer. I needed a new goal, an ambition to do something. “ Not everything happens by choice, but it’s sometimes the spur you need. That was the case for Asif.
“Redundancy was coming,” he said. “It was 2009, and the recession resulting from the 2008 banking crisis was at its highest. I lost my job there, and I decided to set up on my own. Even though the business started during difficult times, it turned out right It all stemmed from leaving the main dealer.”
Some businesses will move around a few times before they stumble across the site they will stay on. Asif, on the other hand, found his right out of the gate: “It was around this time that I came across a derelict building, which became the one where we are today. It was not the modern premises it is now. It was a rundown former business – in fact it had been a staircase shop. I converted the space into a modern automotive workshop.
“As the years progressed I continued to upgrade it. Five years on from there we built on more, adding new additional buildings at the rear of the main building, which meant we could put in three more ramps.”
As you might imagine, Asif did not spring fully formed from the franchised side. He also had some independent experience to fall back on: “Before I was with Toyota I had been at an independent garage that specialised in VW and Audi.”
Fast forward to today, we asked Asif how people find Five Star Autocentre: “The number one way to find us is via Google. There are a lot of outstanding reviews from customers.”
Then there is the physical aspect: “We overlook the local Kia dealership.” That’s handy. Look up, and you will see the garage. However, Asif does not rely on people happening to crane their necks at the right moment, in the right spot though, as you would imagine: “The majority of the main dealers are in the centre of the town, but for us it is word of mouth more than anything. It is through recommendation that we have gotten to where we are. Friends, families recommending, Google AdWords as I said, as well as Facebook and so forth.”
We assumed this means Asif is a great believer in marketing and social media: “Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt,” he confirmed. “Without marketing, no one knows you exist. You have to put your business out there, at the forefront. If people don’t know you exist, they aren’t going to find you.”
As well as being generally an exemplary business, Five Star Autocentre was also a finalist in Top Garage 2019. We asked Asif about his experiences in the competition: “The experience was outstanding and overwhelming. To be honest with you, being in the position of being a finalist is an accolade on its own. To be able to present ourselves in front of the judges and to have gone through the presentation and to have put a pitch across to the judges was an experience and a half on its own.”
Five Star Autocentre is there, it is doing well, and it has been there quite a while now. With the past and present in hand, we wondered about plans for the future for the business. Asif commented: “If you go back to 2019 when we actually entered the competition, our aim was to go into ADAS. My goal was to be at the forefront of the market for ADAS calibration within Huddersfield. If you go forward six months from there, that wish had actually come true.”
We mentioned the ADAS side at the start. It has become quite a big thing for the business. Asif’s ADAS equipment supplier has also recognised what the business has achieved: “I have just done some marketing for Hofmann Megaplan.
They rang yesterday and wanted to do an article on us – me buying the equipment from them and what we have done with it. Just to put it into perspective, we bought the equipment last year, and it cost £21,000. We have had the equipment for eight months, and three quarters of the investment has already been paid off through work generated.
“We are ticking the box for that aspect, and the customers are coming in. I’ve just done three ADAS calibrations this morning in fact. Two were b2b, one was a retail customer.”
Summing it all up, Asif added: “I can’t ask for more.”