Rob Webb


There are a few themes which re­peat on many oc­ca­sions as NZTO­DAY trav­els the coun­try and meets MTA mem­bers in widely dif­fer­ing fields. First, the mo­tor in­dus­try in its myr­iad of guises is sup­ported by a huge num­ber of fam­ily-owned and op­er­ated busi­nesses.

Sec­ond, is seems more a vo­ca­tion than a job for many, with many mem­bers hav­ing worked in the in­dus­try their en­tire lives.

And the third and pos­si­bly most es­sen­tial in terms of long term sur­vival in terms in to­day’s con­stantly chang­ing (and chal­leng­ing) busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, is the abil­ity to change and di­ver­sify as ne­ces­sity and/or op­por­tu­nity dic­tates.

Northend Mo­tors in the South Can­ter­bury town of Geral­dine is an ex­am­ple of all of th­ese in ac­tion. Owned and run by fa­ther and son com­bi­na­tion of Miles and Ryan Mars­den, they have shown their faith in the in­dus­try by re­cently mov­ing to new, pur­pose-built premises as they ex­pand their ve­hi­cle re­pair and light engineering busi­ness.

Miles is one of the in­dus­try’s old hands, with 40 years’ ser­vice un­der his belt and he is the third gen­er­a­tion me­chanic in his fam­ily, with son Ryan car­ry­ing on the fam­ily tra­di­tion as well. Start­ing out with Mt Cook, he spent 12 years work­ing for them. In 1998 he took the plunge to go into busi­ness him­self and bought Northend Mo­tors, at that time still based in the Mt Cook build­ing on the main street.

Ryan chose a rather dif­fer­ent path, leav­ing Geral­dine at age 17 to join the Navy, where he qual­i­fied as a ma­rine engi­neer. Af­ter leav­ing the Navy, he re­tained his nau­ti­cal as­so­ci­a­tion and worked as the engi­neer on su­per yachts.

Yet at heart he re­mained a Geral­dine boy and even­tu­ally the call of the town he loves was too much and he re­turned to his home and roots. But he still didn’t quite give away his nau­ti­cal links, tak­ing up Jet sprint­ing, with help from Miles work­ing on the highly stressed en­gines th­ese boats run. The as­so­ci­a­tion with wa­ter does seem now to have been fi­nally sev­ered, if not the love of high­speed sport, this urge now served by com­pet­ing in speed­way sa­loon rac­ing, and Miles re­mains the guy with the span­ners work­ing on the en­gine.

Look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture, in May of this year Miles and Ryan moved Northend Mo­tors into a new, pur­pose­built build­ing just off the main street and a huge step for­ward from the orig­i­nal Mt Cook premises from where they had been op­er­at­ing.

With five hoists and four full-time me­chan­ics on the pay­roll, they have also taken on an ap­pren­tice, in this in­stance a Ger­man with ex­pe­ri­ence in the Euro­pean mo­tor in­dus­try. He is cer­tainly tak­ing on a whole new learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence here as the workshop takes on ev­ery­thing from golf carts to trac­tors (and on the day I was there, ex­am­ples of both could be seen tak­ing their turn for at­ten­tion).

As far as the Mars­dens are con­cerned, any garage with five me­chan­ics with an eye to the fu­ture should have an ap­pren­tice as part of their work­force and they re­gard hav­ing good, loyal staff as their most valu­able as­set.

In the time the busi­ness has been op­er­at­ing, things have cer­tainly changed. As sheep farm­ing has given way to dairy­ing, the pop­u­la­tion is now of a far more tran­sient na­ture as work­ers pass through or move on to bet­ter things. At the same time, the reg­u­lar cus­tomers be­come more than just cus­tomers. In­stead, many be­come friends and the Mars­den’s even get in­vited to wed­dings of peo­ple they have met through the garage.

As ad­di­tional strings to their bow, they are also the lo­cal AA con­tract garage but have seen the num­ber of af­ter-hours calls re­duce by 50%, not be­cause cars are any more re­li­able, but be­cause the num­ber of cars on the road pass­ing through has dropped.

The New Zealand hy­draulics agency they hold brings in ex­tra work as well and they have re­cently started a car groom­ing op­er­a­tion (if I had my wits about me, I should have had them try their skills on the faith­ful, if long­suf­fer­ing NZT Mon­deo!).

Keep­ing to the theme of look­ing for other out­lets to help bring cus­tomers in, the small parts depart­ment is about to un­dergo a huge change as thanks to the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented with the open­ing of their new premises, they are about to be­come a Repco out­let.

The auto-parts gi­ant is look­ing to ex­pand its pres­ence in small cen­tres, and work­ing along­side ex­ist­ing lo­cal op­er­a­tors on a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ba­sis, they don’t have to buy or con­struct premises, while out­fits like Northend Mo­tors are pre­sented with a great op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand what they do and at the same time bring a whole new cir­cle of cus­tomers into con­tact with the other ser­vices they of­fer.

With an at­ti­tude of “we will try any­thing” and a wide range of skills to call on from the small team, Miles and Ryan seem to have a very firm idea of what the fu­ture holds for them, and it looks bright!

What is more New Zealand than this scene? A thriv­ing garage which can fix any­thing. Here as you can see, cus­tomers don’t al­ways turn up in the fam­ily hatch­back!

The men be­hind it all, fa­ther and son team Miles and Ryan Mars­den, one a third­gen­er­a­tion me­chanic, the other a for­mer Naval engi­neer.

As you would ex­pect of a ru­ral garage and workshop, the parts depart­ment is well stocked and that is be­fore the im­pend­ing ar­rival of Repco

Yes, that golf cart is in the workshop for re­pair work.

In­side the new show­room, this blank can­vas is about to be trans­formed into a Repco out­let

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