CAT garage lives: Avia Autos, Bridgend


Business is always busy at Avia
Business is always busy at Avia

Avia Autos in Bridgend is not just a family-run business, it’s a family of brands.

Hayley Pells is in charge of the business which besides MOT, servicing and general repair also does tuning jobs under the Avia Speed Shop banner and custom work under the fledgling Avia 51 brand (a pun on the alien-infested Area 51).

Hayley’s dad Andy Murdoch is the go-to man for all mechanical and Speedshop work – he has invaluable experience from many years in motorsport – while husband Gray is behind Avia 51. This had been a separate classic restoration and modification garage, but Hayley and Gray decided to consolidate into the one workshop on the Bridgend Industrial Estate last November.

That means that when you pay a visit to Avia you’ll find a big-fendered American pick-up truck, custom Harley and a VW Camper or two. Does this put off bread-and-butter motorists with ‘normal’ cars?

“It’s an ice-breaker,” says Hayley. “If you observe the English, they like to talk about the weather, to have something to get the conversation going. Our truck’s like that.”

Despite the colourful edges to the business, a core of 80% of Avia’s work falls into the MOT, service and repair bracket, so making customers feel at ease is important.

“The MOT is a very emotionally fraught 40 minutes for some people – they hop from foot to foot. You forget because you do them every day, but they get really bothered about it. It’s quite a stressful time.

Hayley Pells
Hayley Pells

“Our clients like to talk to the technicians who have worked on their car and it seems to be successful.”

Andy adds: “He can explain it, because he did it. It’s one of the things you don’t get at the main dealers. Your car just disappears there.”

Making customers comfortable means Avia is getting good word of mouth: “Our customer base has been with us for a long time. We don’t get many brand new customers, we get their neighbours and friends. In some ways it’s fantastic, but they all come in with a knowledge of the business.”

That means knowledge of prices, but Hayley is trying to keep that as transparent in any case.

The workshop is always varied
The workshop is always varied

Avia was advised to price work by different technicians at different prices, the pitch being that a hairdresser will charge more for a cut done by an experience stylist than a trainee.

While Hayley agrees that her dad’s time should be worth more than a trainees, she didn’t take the advice since it would cloud pricing simplicity.

So what is Avia’s labour rate, and where does the shop stand on discounted MOTs? “Our labour rate is £45 plus VAT, so it’s the same as the MOT. We do a deal if somebody is having an MOT and servicing done at the same time, then we do offer a discount and a £45 MOT because some of the checks are the same.”

Seems fair enough, but that’s where the discounting it ends. Ask for more at Avia and, hard though it may be, the work is turned away.

Andy says: “If you see a £20 MOT you know they’re hunting for work, it’s all they’re doing. Why would you go to all of the trouble to set up an MOT lane, then take the time to do them only to give the money away?”

Extra touches make Avia feel different, whether it’s a soapbox derby one weekend or a Nissan versus Ford club day with barbecue on another.

There are great barstools fabricated in the Avia workshop from old wheels, and while you can’t see many of the garage’s core clientele buying a branded hoodie, they’re more than happy to bring their cars in for a general service.

After all, families are colourful things with lots of different personalities.

Avia Autos – vital stats

Established:                           2006 (Speed Shop in 2009)

Facilities:                               MOT lane, three ramps, tyre bay

Technicians:                          Four

Work:                                      Service and repair, tuning, fabrication/modification

Brands:                                   Dodo juice, EBC Brakes, Spax, Turbo Dynamics

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