Text: Danie Botha
Photographs: Jannie Herbst
An aftermarket bumper. That was the spark that ignited the Autostyle fire, 12 years ago. It happened like this: Mohammed Essop ordered an aftermarket bumper to fit to his vehicle. When he received and tried to fit it, he realised it was not the correct part.
So, somewhat irate, he advertised the bumper in a newspaper smalls advertisement. The resulting response was so overwhelming that a new idea was born. If there is such a huge demand for an aftermarket bumper, surely there is a supply problem? So he ordered a few more bumpers, and soon these were snatched up quicker than Mohammed could say “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.
So he teamed up with friend Mohammed Mayet, and Autostyle was born. At first the company did its business from a cramped, 80 square metre shop in Mayfair, Johannesburg. Today Autostyle operates out of a modern 300sqm showroom next to the original shop in Mayfair. A second branch, across the street from the Gateway Mall in Umhlanga Ridge, Durban, serves the KwaZulu-Natal clients.
Mohammed Essop’s brother, Junaid, looks after the new products and marketing aspects of the business. He says that Autostyle is still far from reaching its peak.
“We continuously look at new avenues to offer our clients a better service. One of these new projects is a modern fitment centre, which will open across the street from our Mayfair shop in the near future.
“A big part of our business is the supply of aftermarket wheels and tyres. But up till now our clients could only buy the hardware from us, and it had to be fitted by themselves or at a specialised shop. Soon we will be able to fit the parts at our new fitment centre here too,” explains Junaid.
Service, he says, is one of the biggest factors in Autostyle’s success story.
“It’s about a ‘buying experience’ for us. We treat our clients with the respect they deserve, and besides the fact that we have undertaken to beat any other quoted price, that’s what keeps our clients returning. It’s one thing to fork out lots of money for something you want, but if the buying experience is bad, it spoils the whole thing for you. We make sure this doesn’t happen.”
And when something does go wrong, as it does in business, Junaid says Autostyle has a proud record of addressing any problems very quickly and efficiently.
“When we receive a complaint via a consumer website such as Blue Peter, we will respond to that complaint within half an hour. And sort it out too. We value our clientele, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we have been successful in what we do,” he says.
Another aspect is giving the market what it needs and wants. And in that department, you don’t get many more options than Autostyle offers.
Mag wheels, tyres, car audio equipment, in-car entertainment systems, automotive paints, gadgets, navigation devices of all shapes, performance parts, and aftermarket accessories such as headlights, bumpers, seats… you name it, and it’s there. Listing all the products that are available at Autostyle would probably fill six pages in Leisure Wheels.
In a further effort to make the buying experience as effortless as possible, Autostyle has created a virtual showroom and shop on its award-winning website.
“Every product is listed on the website, along with photographs and full descriptions. There are also files that can be downloaded that show you step-by-step how to install, for example, an alarm system. Our online shop is doing very well at the moment, and we handle about 100 e-mail enquiries and about 50 online sales per day,” explains Junaid.
What are the most popular accessories at Autostyle?
“Sound system upgrades are very popular. So are rims and tyres. Some customers change their wheels and tyres once a year to refresh the look of their vehicle. Aftermarket accessories like lighting systems are also very popular, as are in-car entertainment systems, like DVD systems.
“Radar and laser detectors also fly off the shelves. Oh yes, and chromed accessories also seem to be in high demand at the moment.”
And the future? What is the “next best thing” in the accessory market?
“Probably integrated in-car entertainment systems. Some vehicle manufacturers offer the option of, say, a TV tuner, or a GPS system. But these original part systems are very expensive. We now have integrated systems that offer the latest Garmin GPS system, TV tuner, DVD player, MP3 player and even an optional rear-view camera interface. The most expensive version retails for R12 000, which is still a lot more affordable than the original options,” says Junaid.
The Autostyle candy shop, er… sorry, aftermarket accessory shop is a place one can spend many gleeful hours in. But be warned: the chances of you walking out of there with all your rands still in your wallet are not very good. Not very good at all.
Visit www.autostyle.co.za for more information.