CAT Garage Lives: ABP Motorsport, Crewe

ABP's impressive surroundings
ABP's impressive surroundings

A visit to ABP Motorsport in Crewe has a lot to live up to. After all, the business has been named CAT Magazine’s Garage of the Year for the past three years running, as well as being frequently named as either a winner or a runner up in numerous other competitions.

Owner Chris Meredith explained how it all began: “The business started in 1964, it was then called just ABP which were the initials of the father of the owner of the time. The previous owner was very much a petrol head, he did a lot of rallying and such for many years and that’s where the motorsport element came into the business.

“I joined the business when I was 17, back in 1990. One way or another I’ve been working here for the past 20 years, and I was made Director in 2003. When I first started I was packing mail order parcels and packaging goods, at some time I’ve done every job here.”

Meredith was presented with the opportunity to take over ABP Motorsport in 2009, it was one he found too good to pass up: “That was a crazy year. Not only did I take over the business from the previous owner, but I also got married and moved house. If you have a crazy year you might as well have one like that!

“The decision to buy the business was tough – if it all went pear-shaped I’d be out of work. When you’re in control of a business and the bank has got your name on the dotted line it makes things tough – but if you’re passionate about something you can always make it work. The business isn’t going to grow all by itself, you have to view failure as not being an option.”

ABP Owner Chris Meredith
ABP Owner Chris Meredith

Since taking over ABP Motorsport has gone from strength to strength, Meredith reports that 2010/11 was the best ever year for the business, with 2012 already raising the bar even higher.

While ABP has enjoyed a seemingly unending spree of success, Meredith knows all too well that it isn’t the case for everyone: “Doom and gloom is something that people tend to turn to too easily. I do think a lot of garages are run very well – but are the technicians businessmen? I couldn’t do all of what our technicians do in the workshop, but that’s why I work more on the marketing side of the business.

“There are so many guys locally who’ve set up by themselves and they don’t have that business acumen – unfortunately they get so involved on the technical side that often they go under.”

For ABP, a lot of success comes from clever marketing – Meredith says at least a third of his business growth has come from marketing power: “Just this week I’ve had four customers book their cars into the workshop just off the back of the press attention we’ve had from winning the CAT Award.”

Meredith also sees a new problem emerging – a lack of properly trained technicians: “I think a lot of youngsters now don’t want to learn the skills. A few years ago Bentley Motors went on a massive recruitment drive in our area to recruit new technicians, we lost two guys to that business. The pool was empty at that point and we needed to replace those staff members – we ended up recruiting in Poland.”

ABP’s roots lie in performance tuning, and a look around the workshop reveals this is still at the core of the business. Upgraded springs, suspension units, exhausts and performance paraphernalia litter the upstairs stock room, with orders ready to be fitted to waiting customer’s cars.

ABP has a large workshop
ABP has a large workshop

That isn’t to say that ABP turns away the regular garage work though – MOTs and servicing is still important to the business. Local customers come to ABP for the service they should be getting at the main dealer: “We get a massive number of letters and emails from female customers saying thanks for the service, we treat them professionally and we don’t speak down to them.

“I think there’s a huge problem with garages not treating female customers right. Some technicians just have a difficulty relating to females; it has to come down to the training. I’d like to think that by now that sort of problem would have gone but it’s something that customers keep complaining about.”

For Meredith the biggest problem facing the market is discounted MOT rates. While he says the move to keep the 3-1-1 schedule is undoubtedly a good thing, VOSA needs to do more to stop discounted MOTs: “Unfortunately I don’t think that VOSA will ever take the move to enforce the price of the MOT.

“If I asked customers whether they just wanted an MOT certificate or if they wanted their cars to be safe, I’d send the ones who just wanted the certificate down the road, because anyone can do that. If they want their car to be safe we’ll do it properly and we’ll charge £45.”

ABP Motorsport – vital stats

ESTABLISHED                        1964

HQ                                              Crewe

BAYS                                          5

STAFF                                       9

FLEET                                       0


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Published by Darrenmoss

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

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1 Comment

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  1. Couldn’t have put it better myself Darren!

    Come on Garages – get in touch with Darren @ CAT and get featured in the magazine!

    Chris Meredith