CAT factor lives: US Automotive, Bedford

US Automotive specialises in American cars

US Automotive specialises in American cars

It’s tough for everyone in the aftermarket at the moment, but for those catering for a niche band of customers like US Automotive it must be even harder.

Sales Director Pete Stafford admits the past 18 months have been hard. “Hopefully business will pick up now we’ve come out of the recession. You know how to knuckle down in this trade, to concentrate on core business,” he says.

The core business for US Automotive is, unsurprisingly, American cars, with most of the firm’s marketing coming through word-of-mouth.

Stafford’s advice for factors looking to generate this kind of attention is simple: “Look after the customer in the first place in the hope that they’ll then tell someone else. You don’t want a customer once – you have to get them coming back for more. They pay your salary.”

US Automotive is also overhauling its website and adding new product lines, however. Stafford says it’s vital to have a good online presence in this business: “It’s got to be good, and you’ve got to get it out there. It has to be easy for people to find and easy for them to use. And because we use all the American terminology, it has to be easy for the customer to understand, too.”

Sales Director Pete Stafford often has to translate orders

Sales Director Pete Stafford often has to translate orders

Knowing how to speak American helps since bonnets and boots are entirely different things when they come from across the pond. “You have to talk about hoods and trunks as opposed to bonnets and boots,” says Stafford, “You’ve got to use the terminology.”

It’s safe to say that American cars haven’t taken off in a big way in the UK, but Stafford thinks people are getting over misconceptions, and they’re catching on.

“Some people are still scared to sit on the left and think you can’t overtake in an American car. A lot of people are still put off because of the big engines, and they think they’ll only get 10 miles to the gallon. The modern ones can return 30mpg at least.

“In terms of what you get for your money they’re a lot better value than cars from Europe.”

“There are several gray importers over here which specialise in American vehicles, but there’s just not enough of them. The other issue is the duty and tax when these vehicles come in – there’s 30 percent tax on a car, and the trucks are 22 percent. If you’re not a big company, importing can be very expensive,” says Stafford.

US Autmotive's impressive stock holding

US Automotive's impressive stock holding

When people do import American cars into the country, they can get little support from the VMs. They’re left to fend for themselves, so in step companies like US Automotive to ensure they’re not left by the wayside.

Walking away from US Automotive there’s a feeling of hope that smaller niche factors can survive the coming months. US Automotive has had to adapt to keep going, moving to cater for the modern US car market as well as the classics. Adaptability could be the key for other business in the aftermarket, too.

US Automotive – vital stats

ESTABLISHED          1997

HQ                                Bedford

BRANCHES                1

STAFF                          10

STOCK                        £250,000

TEL                              01234 273155

Want to see your business featured here and in CAT Magazine? Email darren.moss@haymarket.com or call 020 8267 5927

This post was written by:

- who has written 295 posts on CAT Magazine.

CAT magazine's in-house reporter and self-confessed petrol head

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