Andrews High Tech Automotive is a giant independent ready to tackle any challenge, from European to Asian models.
As car dealerships explore ever-more innovative ways of keeping customers within their network – be it capped price or free servicing, finance or extended warranty deals – the independents have had to ensure they offer something different. Cheaper hourly rate is an obvious example, but also through honesty, customer service, expertise across numerous areas and professionalism.
Andrew and Tess Napper – owners and operators of Andrews High Tech Automotive in Maroochydore, Queensland – are celebrating 30 years in business, with
the company’s longevity and continual expansion showing they’re doing plenty of things right. It’s a huge facility incorporating numerous businesses across one site.
Its European Vehicle Division specialises is Audis, BMW, Mercedes and VW, while its Asia/Pacific Division covers domestic, Japanese and Korean cars. Then there’s its Performance Division, specialising in tuning for both petrol and diesel vehicles.
While customer service, value and guaranteeing their work are expected, the husband and wife team try to make life easier for their customers with drop-offs/ collections from workplaces and providing a courtesy car. Its point of difference over dealerships and other independents, Andrew said, was ensuring all work
was carried out by qualified automotive technicians. “Others employ trade assistants and apprentices to perform a lot of the work in pursuit of higher profit margins. Most of our staff are accredited with two automotive trade qualifications and are currently working through a third. You’re getting what you pay for.”
A lifelong mechanic, Andrew started his business aged 24. He’d identified that fuel injection was becoming more prevalent and car owners were having trouble with it. “That’s where I focused my studies and became a bit of an expert, hence the High Tech Automotive name,” he said. “It was the usual one man show when I started, then we moved to a bigger workshop and my method was once we had over a week booked out in the diary, it was time to take on another person. It’s very much a ‘right now’ industry. You need to accommodate that or people won’t be real patient, so that’s how we grew.”
A few years ago Andrew recognised he’d grown to such an extent – and there were so many difference facets to the business – it would be too hard to keep all his employees under one roof. With long-time acquaintance Russell Houghton from nearby Suncoast Automotive Services retiring, Andrew and Tess took over the business and its giant footprint. “We had 20 employees, and when moving, it went up to 29 as we retained Russell’s staff,” Andrew said. “There’s certainly a skills shortage in this trade, reliable technicians are thin on the ground. Russell wouldn’t put up with any nonsense, so I knew his people would be good people with integrity.”
The shop has on average 25-30 cars coming in each day, with the inevitable hangovers of jobs in process. Thankfully it’s a spacious and well laid out facility with ample parking, while the workshop area, without mezzanines, Andrew reckons is 750m². It’s busy on my day there. Showing the eclectic range, there are two giant American trucks in for work, a street-legal FPV Falcon in the process of a monumental 1300rwhp performance build, a Holden Colorado on an all-wheel-drive hub dyno and a racing Caterham waiting its turn.
“The hub dyno is better than rollers as there’s zero slippage and a lot safer,” Andrew explained. “It can take 1000rwhp and more.” As dealers for APR tuning there’s a Stage 2 build on the workshop’s own VW Golf R (great marketing tool for customers to sample), while a current client has an Audi R8 V8 with Stage 3 APR supercharger kit following an engine rebuild. The business is also a StreetFighter dealer, offering superchargers for big power Mustangs and Camaros.
There’s a place for classics and the everyday too. “I love seeing an old Mustang as much as a new one, but the important thing is, whatever the car, be it an old Corolla or an Audi R8, it’s someone’s pride and joy,” Andrew said. “We must give every car the same amount of attention.”
Being proactive has helped the business survive. During the Global Financial Crisis the business “re-recruited, re-tooled, re-studied and re-focused” on the expanding European car market, while in challenging times “you have to look for new opportunities and be conscious of diversification,” Andrew said. That means offering things such as the hub dyno for diesel owners towing caravans having their ECU re-mapped for better low-down torque delivery, and tapping into the ever-growing telematics systems, including fleet car monitoring and dash cams.
“If you’re not moving forward you’re going backwards in this industry,” he suggested. Such thinking has helped the firm thrive, and even if the cars we buy in future change dramatically, Andrew said they’re ready. “The jury’s out on electric vehicles,” he said. “If they become mainstream, we’ll embrace it. Vehicles may be getting more complex, but we’ll always get the education and training needed to make it work.”