Staffing quality counts as used car group throws open its doors

Graham Bell  the Owner of AvailableCar, at Capitol Park, Tingley.19th January 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Graham Bell the Owner of AvailableCar, at Capitol Park, Tingley.19th January 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
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A used car business, that has taken over a large showroom in the region, said it has been overwhelmed by the standard of job applicants it has interviewed.

Available Car bought the former Carcraft site in Tingley at the tail end of last year. The firm, which opened the doors to its fourth site last week, has hired 135 people and is looking to recruit a further 15.

Graham Bell (left) the Owner of AvailableCar, and Paul Arscott the Operations Director, pictured at the Showroom at Capitol Park, Tingley.19th January 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Graham Bell (left) the Owner of AvailableCar, and Paul Arscott the Operations Director, pictured at the Showroom at Capitol Park, Tingley.19th January 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

The location and suitability of the site was a key factor in bringing Available Car to Leeds, along with the prosperity of the region.

Graham Bell, chairman of Available Car, told The Yorkshire Post: “I think there’s good hard working people here. They know what’s value for money. It’s prosperous and they say it how it is.”

He added: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the quality of people that have applied for the jobs here.

“In the workshop there’s two individuals since December that have been promoted having shown initiative. That’s what we are about giving people opportunities to develop their skills and we have people that can train them.”

He admits to having initial concerns of being able to convince would-be employees to leave their jobs, a month before Christmas, and join Available Car. But says they were “blown away” at the quality of people who applied.

The company, which was launched in 2002, has three other sites across the country, in Castle Donington, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Cannock.

The site in Castle Donington is the family-run business’s largest site but the group says Leeds has the potential to be just as big, with staff numbers going up to 200 and potentially 250 in the future.

Available Car has brought in a handful of experienced staff from the other sites to help get the Leeds showroom on track.

When initially looking to recruit for the site Available Car extended an invitation to all the former employees who lost their jobs at the former Carcraft site when it closed. Available Car said it has taken on eight former employees of Carcraft so far.

The group said that many of the former employees had moved on.

Mr Bell said: “We didn’t have the opportunity to get involved when Carcraft was going under. We only had the opportunity when the site was available six months later.”

Paul Arscott, operations director at Available Car, said: “This is our capital city of the North.”

Signalling that the site has the capability of being even larger than its current acreage. At the moment it holds 950 cars but the group hopes that if successful they can extend it to 1800 cars.

“There is the possibility of extending this site for more land,” Mr Bell added.

The firm, currently headed by Mr Bell and his wife Alison, says it has one of the best staff retention rates in the motor trade, due to the way it treats staff.

Mr Bell said: “We do a profit related pay that is shared between all our staff, whether it’s the cleaner or the person who runs the staff.

“It’s a percentage of their basic pay. Last year we paid 16 per cent to our employees and that’s just over £1.7m that was paid to our staff before Christmas.”

He added: “The aim is if me and Alison have got what we want to make out of it we want to then share it with the rest of our staff. It creates a loyalty.”

Mr Arscott said turnover for 2015 was £230m but with the acquisition of the site in Leeds the firm is aiming to increase that figure to £300m.

The group said its short term is to sell 100 cars a week, before eventually increasing that to 150.

The motor trade has been clouded by the VW emissions scandal and Available Car said that sales of the German cars did slow but it hasn’t had a lasting impact.

Moving up the gears

Available Car was established in 2002 by Graham Bell, who came from a family who owned a car supermarket, after his father-in-law suggested that he should launch his own.

He says that having started the business it gives him an advantage because “you’ve done all the jobs earlier on in your life, you know what everybody is doing and you are appreciative of your staff”.