CAT garage lives: Frogs Island 4X4

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Frogs Island has made its name in expedition prep
Frogs Island has made its name in expedition prep

Frogs Island is a workshop with a difference. While the garage still gets its daily bread from servicing and repair work, many of its jobs are on a much larger scale than the average workshop.

The 4×4 specialist started out as a one-man band in the early 1990s. Manager Gary Arnold says that the biggest change in the company came in 2008 when it was bought by 4×4 components supplier AllMakes: “The main benefit is that we now have a larger company behind us to provide support. If we have IT or admin troubles for example, we can look to them for support and advice. It also allowed us to outsource things like accounts to a larger company. It gave us stability.”

The buyout came at a good time for Frogs Island. Arnold says the business had struggled under the recession: “The biggest effect of the recession was a lack of some of the repairs. The level of enquiries for the preparation work we do for foreign trips slowed a lot, so we had to drop a number of staff.”

The preparation work Arnold mentions is one of the most impressive aspects of the Frogs Island business. Many of the business’ customers use their vehicles for foreign expeditions and trips which require significant upgrades to the 4×4 vehicles used.

Arnold says that when it comes to the preparation work, he’ll only use the best components: “I won’t fit cheap options because I don’t want any potential for failure. It complicates matters if something breaks down oversees. It’s just not worth our while.

“The customers know that their car isn’t going to be ready at the end of the day, but we have to manage their expectations.” Because of the scope and cost of much of the prep work – Arnold says that in some cases the bill to repair a vehicle can quickly run above £10,000 – there needs to be a lot of communication with customers.

Manager Gary Arnold
Manager Gary Arnold

His technicians don’t mind the longer jobs, however: “Although you could be working on these cars for a number of weeks the actual work is interesting. It’s not just swapping parts or fitting new parts, it’s all the problems and issues that you have to solve. A lot of our technicians find the regular work boring, they find the differing parts of the work they do here interesting. One day they might be working on the water system, the next they might be doing the electrics.”

Arnold says the vast majority of his time is spent working with Land Rovers: “Land Rover is by far the biggest brand we work on, not because we don’t work on any other brands but because there are just so many of them on the road.

“We also subscribe to Land Rover’s technical site, which gives us access to all its information. Getting that information is a big issue for some brands, especially the Japanese.”

Frogs Island also sells original Land Rover parts to customers, though only when it can’t acquire those parts through aftermarket channels. The business doesn’t just sell to the trade, either. An online shop is currently bringing in ten percent of the total parts sales for the business, though Arnold would like it to do more.

Expedition prep is big business
Expedition prep is big business

While some may see setting yourself up in such a niche market as a downside, Arnold says it has allowed him to carve out a reputation as a specialist: “We’re in a market where there’s scope to offer different levels of parts to customers.

“Someone who wants to go and play in the local quarry at the weekend in a Land Rover is in the market for buying upgraded suspension parts and the like, whereas for a regular road car there isn’t the same scope.”

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