From humble beginnings to top gear

With his pension money of a mere R17 000 and working from his car, Mike Bradshaw started his own car business back in 2000. Today, Top Gear Auto is testimony to what hard work, determination and dedication can achieve.

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Top Gear Auto moved to new and bigger premises in Bryanston from the one they occupied for almost ten years. The new dealership is about two kilometres from where they used to be, says Mike. Not only is it a better location, but they can now house 100 used vehicles instead of only 65 previously.

“I am proud when I look back to where I started, and I still remember buying an Opel Monza with my pension money I got when I left my previous employer, the then Imperial Group. I bought the Monza for R13 000 and sold it for R17 500. And that is how it started till we opened a dealership in Randburg in 2005 before moving over to Bryanston,” he tells Dealerfloor.

From buying and selling his first used car in 2000, Mike Bradshaw has grown Top Gear Auto to a large used vehicle retailer in Bryanston.

Before following his own path, he was involved with both the then Imperial (MOTUS) and McCarthy (Bidvest) Motor groups on the KIA and Daihatsu brands.

“Two years ago, I partnered up with Mark Dommisse, Managing Director of the North Motor Group and the Chairperson of the National Automobile Dealer Association. Top Gear Auto is now part of the North Motor Group, a division of the Hallmark Group,” he says.

Asked about the used car business and where Top Gear Auto puts the emphasis, Mike says he would love to establish an aftermarket work and repair shop especially for Jaguars and Land Rovers.

“I love premium brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus and Alfa to mention a few. Some people might prefer to run away from these vehicles in the used car segment. Once these brands are out of their factory warranty and maintenance plans, it can be quite expensive to keep them in good condition and on the road. I believe what we envisage can be the solution.”

Top Gear Auto has moved into a new facility in Bryanston, which can now house 100 vehicles.

Mike said they recently added another dimension to Top Gear Auto. “We started a Rent-to-Own section for people who struggle to get vehicle financing through the normal financial structures. It also includes insurance through us, which forms part of the monthly instalment,” Mike says.

Takers in this Rent-to-Own system, might be someone who had a small misconduct that now excludes him or her from obtaining credit. They are usually people with stable jobs and in need of a car for work. We have several nurses for instance who use this opportunity. Currently, we have around 30 cars out there and hope to increase the number to 100 by next year. This system makes provision for people to own the car eventually,” he says.

We ask Mike to what he attributes his success, which is the way he was brought up and the lessons he learned from his late father.

“My dad was an ex-soldier in the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and very disciplined. He taught me that profit is not a swear-word, but getting rich at someone else’s expense is wrong. I also believe, like I was told, that business is not a ‘one-day match’.

Top Gear Auto started with one sale in 2000 and has grown to become part of North Motor Group and a large used vehicle retailer in Gauteng.

“I try to live by this principle and try to inculcate these values in my staff. We do not try to drive a sale through at all cost. If the customer is not convinced, he or she needs to take time to evaluate the transaction. We do not believe in hard sales tactics,” Mike says.

And when he is not selling cars? “I enjoy the outdoors, activities like scuba diving, mountain biking, motor bike off roading with my family. Family time is tremendously important to me and I encourage the importance if this in all my staff as well,” Mike concludes.

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