Local garage wins national award

It has been announced that independent Stonehaven garage FirstDrive has won the title of “Small Garage of The Year 2012” in a national competition.

The Fetteresso based company came first in the Motor Codes competition which was based wholly on customer feedback and fought off tough competition from a number of other garages across Scotland.

FirstDrive, which is owned by Kate and Paul Mackie, started from scratch in 1995 with a small amount of funding from the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust and a local Enterprise Trust.

Kate and Paul have seen the business grow steadily over the years from a small one-man operation to a successful premises with seven ramps, five mechanics and a healthy clientele.

Within the last few years the premises have been upgraded and extended as the demand for FirstDrive’s services grew. This meant they could accommodate more customers and offer better facilities at their base near Fetteresso Woods.

The garage has a good reputation throughout the area for both its friendly staff, honest prices and car turnaround time.

Keen cyclists Kate and Paul have maps that they can offer customers who wish to take advantage of the surrounding countryside whilst waiting for their car by going for a walk, mountain or road bike ride.

However this is not obligatory for customers as they also offer a comfortable waiting area where they can watch the work being carried out on their car from a 32” television if they prefer.

FirstDrive seem to have a positive reputation throughout Stonehaven and the surrounding area, and they support the Fireballs at Hogmanay, which Paul takes part in, and the Stonehaven Marathon.

They have also joined many other companies in “going green” after recently installing solar panels on their roof which cover almost all of their energy requirements. They also recycle around 1000 tyres each year as well as all other items that they possibly can.

Most of the family-run businesses’ customers go to them through word-of-mouth recommendation and their aim is to keep their customers for life.

A loyal customer who wrote to the Leader to tell us about their achievement said:

“In these recessionary times when local businesses are having to work ever harder to achieve growth, and even stay afloat, I was delighted on their behalf to discover that Firstdrive Cars of Hyndwells, Fetteresso has recently achieved significant success in a national competition.

“This award, unlike some in the business world, depended on customer feedback, so it’s good to know that my own positive experience is shared by many other customers.

“Paul and Kate Mackie have worked hard to build up their business after initial support from the Prince’s Trust, to a point where they are providing local employment and training, as well as investing in improved premises. A success story to inspire other young business hopefuls looking to start up on their own.”

The initial voting stage began in February before it was narrowed down to the top 100 UK garages in April. Judging then took place for the UK top 20 garages and then the winners were announced.

Motor Codes, the company who ran the competition, was set up by the motor industry to act as the self-regulatory body for the automotive sector.

This year was the third annual year of the competition where motorists were asked to “champion their local garage and help remove the stress of finding a trustworthy garage for car owners across the UK”.

The competition is described to be fast becoming one of the most prestigious, far reaching motor industry awards:

“Reflecting the diverse nature of the businesses that commit to Motor Codes standards, customers can rate their service or repair experience at businesses ranging from the smallest independent garage to the largest main dealer.”

However the garage that comes out on top isn’t the only winner in the competition as everyone who voted for their favourite garage was entered into a prize draw where one lucky winner won a year’s free car servicing and a pair of tickets to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Kate and Paul Mackie said when speaking about their success in the competition: “We are absolutely delighted that our customers have recognised the high level of service we work incredibly hard to provide.

“We thank everyone who has taken the time to vote for us and we will continue to offer the best service we possibly can with the help of our great team”.

The FirstDrive team, who regularly take part in the Catterline Cartie Challenge, is made up of the owners Kate and Paul Mackie, mechanics Chris Campbell, Larry Jamieson and Dominik Wardowski, mechanic and MOT tester Sandy Duncan and Workshop Manager and MOT Tester Alistair Aitken.