Pictured: The team at Wairarapa Mitsubishi.
Wairarapa Mitsubishi Motors
In 2015, Brent Cooper swapped his mechanic’s overalls for a suit and bought a car dealership in Masterton.
This year he was named Mitsubishi’s Managing Director of the Year, which acknowledged the dramatic turnaround he has achieved in the business’s sales and performance.
“We quadrupled sales in our first year and have continued to grow. We also doubled the staff, from seven to 14,” he says. Not bad for a guy who had never worked in a dealership. But he did have experience in sales and business management. Up until 2015, Brent was the co-owner and foreman of a mechanical workshop in Eketahuna Rowden Automotive.
“We fixed everything from lawnmowers to diggers and sold Bridgestone tyres throughout the district.”
In 2015 Brent (pictured above) hit the 10-year mark for the Eketahuna business and it prompted him and his wife Tracey, to sit down and review their investment and their goals.
“Tracey had bought the Masterton Pet Shop about five years earlier, and the pet store was right at the back of the Mitsubishi Motors site.” Brent could see the potential for the business and had heard it was for sale – the owner had died a few years earlier.
“I did some research and it seemed clear to me that the Mitsubishi brand was about to take off. The Triton utes had been redesigned and there was a lot of interest in them, and the brand. We’d got past the GFC and car sales were on the rise.”
But he had to persuade MMNZ, which was reassessing its franchise in Masterton.
“We had to convince them that I was the person for the dealership. Tracey, who has a business degree and a background in sales and finance did a lot of the hard work, pulling together the business plan and forecasts. We had to counter every question they had, and in the end, they took a punt on us.”
Tracey Cooper (pictured above) owns and manages the Masterton Pet Shop just behind the dealership.
“It was a risk taking on the dealership and we didn’t know how quickly we could build it up.”
Both she and Brent are hard workers. Tracey spends Fridays at the dealership and other days as needed. “I sold a car last week and it’s helpful having my business so close – I can refer clients from the pet shop to Brent.”
The couple have three children “so its quite a balancing act".
“Thank God for my mother.”
HIS OWN STYLE
“I think I came in with a fresh approach to the business and I have very simple principles: work hard and provide a fair and honest service,” says Brent.
Brent’s ambition is fuelled by enthusiasm, a little bit of Red Bull, and a passion for cars. “Looking back, it was a daunting move to buy the business. I’d still do it again but might be a bit more cautious. Owning a dealership is very complex and when you first get involved, you don’t know what you don’t know. That first 12 months almost burned me out. I had to learn so much.”
Brent also thinks they had great timing. “If the business was for sale now, with the way the brand is going, it would be snapped up really quickly.”
Both Brent and wife Tracey were proud to receive the national managing director's award earlier this year.
MMNZ Managing Director Warren Brown, who selected them for the award, says, “Brent’s passion and enthusiasm have inspired a remarkable 12 months of results for Wairarapa Mitsubishi. It’s that drive that saw Brent and his team take out the award. Brent certainly is a rising star within the Mitsubishi Motors family.”
Brent and his sales team (pictured above) are working hard to grow their market share.
“Nationally, Mitsubishi has 7-8 percent of the market, while here in the Wairarapa we are running at 10 percent for cars and 12 percent for utes. So we are ahead, and I’d like to bump that up by another couple of percent.”