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Bright Lights Big City

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Over 100 cars roll through Brisbane BMW’s service centre each day, ensuring it’s as busy as the city surrounding it.

Australia’s a land of contrasts. Compare the vast emptiness and desolate landscape of an outback town with our ultra-modern, crammed and fast-paced cities and it’s hard to believe it’s the same country. Positively, it gives Australian mechanics the opportunity to choose their work environment. If it’s your bag, you could be servicing endless Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series’ in the Red Centre, or instead, spannering on the latest European luxury models in our buzzing urban centres. Take Brisbane BMW. Situated in the heart of the action in Fortitude Valley, there’s the giant shiny showroom, industry awards on the walls and constant flow of luxury and sporting BMWs and Minis rolling across the driveway. On my arrival – embarrassingly, in a bright orange Holden Colorado – a valet swiftly took the keys, hid the ute away and shepherded me towards a marvellous cup of barista coffee. Whatever your thoughts on mighty main dealerships, it’s a pretty appealing customer experience. It’s a massive operation, and clearly the service department needs to run with military precision. Overseeing the show is Matt Cotterill, service manager for Brisbane BMW and Rolls-Royce Brisbane. Aged just 31 he’s held the role for three years, following six years as a service advisor and before that on new car pre-delivery and the workshop floor. Having served his apprenticeship with BMW in the UK, he’s a loyal one-brand man and as passionate about the German marque as you’d expect.

“BMW’s at the front of the industry in my opinion, and very exciting to be around,” Matt says. “It attracts customers who are very passionate; they don’t just buy the brand, they buy the experience. The opportunities are endless (for staff), whether they want to remain in one workshop or work across the world, there are these opportunities. The guys trained in our workshop are super smart intelligent people, and there’s the opportunity for them to go into a non-technical or even motorsport roles with this brand.”

Showing the scale of the company, at Brisbane BMW’s main service site there are 20 hoists and a wheel alignment machine. An overflow site just down the road has 10 sites and wheel alignment machine; there’s another workshop a few kilometres away, and a new airport service centre too. “About 110 vehicles a day come through the driveway, and about 30 cars are being worked on at any one time,” says Matt. “We have 76 staff overall in our service department, including 33 mechanics and 10 apprentices, spread out between the workshops.”

Body repairs are done at its own body shop, tyres are fitted on site, and there are five mechanics certified to work on hybrid and electric vehicles. “This is quite rare as it’s a training process of three or four courses to get technicians voltage trained, and it’s all done through BMW Australia,” Matt explains. “We see a good number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars now, as a lot of owners are city-based commuting locally.”

Matt says a challenge is the amount of time technicians could be training, but integral considering how rapidly the industry is changing. “The electrical side is the next step in the journey for any career for the techs, and they all really want to get on the training as it makes them more valuable. In the 12 years I’ve been here (Brisbane BMW), the changes to safety features, technology like active cruise control and the driver experience have been huge, but it makes the cars exciting to work on. The technicians love finding these little details in the cars.”

What about the potential for such technology to overwhelm and confuse customers? For that area, BMW has its “BMW Genius” initiative. Experts trained to familiarise owners before, during and after purchase, especially all that technology incorporated in BMWs these days.

Hard to believe such a role would have been necessary 20 years ago – those five-minute handovers are a thing of the past – but refreshingly, Matt says they still see some BMW classics through the workshop, as well as the latest M Performance weapons. “It’s very exciting to see older cars come in,” says Matt. “The differences between them and the modern cars are incredible. Next month we have vintage BMWs on display in the showroom from the BMW Car Club of Queensland. That’s a nice experience to enjoy here.”

“About 110 Vehicles A Day Come Through The Driveway, And About 30 Cars Are Being Worked On At Any One Time.”

While BMW-loyal Matt may not have needed to shake his head at some of the engineering and mechanicals technicians may have endured under a Ford, Citroen, Saab, Land Rover or dear old Holden, many of his staff have. “I get a lot of good feedback from techs who’ve come to the dealership and say what a dream BMWs are to work with. They’re clean and tidy, so the techs certainly stay a lot cleaner than they were 20 years ago!”

It appears a good time to be trained by a brand like BMW, as it’s one really pushing ahead with the inevitable future of the cars we’ll be buying and needing maintained, namely hybrids and full electric vehicles – no matter if we like that or not. Either way, Matt says mechanics is “a good career, and the opportunities are endless. You’ve got to have a passion for cars and the brand you work for. That way you’ll always enjoy it.”

Call Brisbane BMW (07) 3853 0000

For more information visit www.brisbanebmw.com.au

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