Two brands, one company.
That’s the vision of Lafast Motors, which assumed the role of exclusive dealer for the BMW and Mini brands in TT on September 18.
In response to emailed queries, Lafast Motors director Gregory Farah said the move solidifies the company's partnership with Jamaica-based ATL Autobahn – importer and subsidiary of the ATL Automotive Group, which is responsible for the BMW and Mini master dealer operations in Jamaica and eight other Caribbean territories.
Farah said discussions with ATL Autobahn began earlier this year and materialised into Lafast Motors – a new division of Laughlin and De Gannes, which was developed specifically to “anchor” the operations of BMW and Mini in TT.
He said Lafast has invested in building a state-of-the-art facility in Port of Spain and a more compact four-car showroom in San Fernando. Lafast will operate temporarily from the Mini showroom at on 37 Dundonald Street, while BMW and Mini owners in TT will have their cars serviced at two Laughlin and De Gannes locations in San Fernando and Port of Spain.
“There are four ramps in San Fernando and a 12-car ramp in Port of Spain with plans to expand as needed – much more than before. This will result in a greatly reduced wait time for BMW and Mini owners when servicing their cars. Parts and specialised tools have already been shipped directly from Germany and we’ll be setting up a factory, fully stocked, that we can pull from to minimise downtime,” he said.
Farah said both locations have “great visibility,” with the Laughlin and De Gannes name being a household name in TT: the company is a major automotive and engineering service provider, with business units in equipment supplies for sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction and energy.
He said the investment represents a “first” for the automotive brands in TT, and signifies a shift to “employing the international standards established in other regional countries, such as Jamaica, since 2017.
“It will be two brands, one company. The goal is to invest in placing both BMW and Mini in brand-exclusive showrooms.
"It is important to know that the development of these showrooms is not just to make us look good. When you purchase a BMW or Mini you are entitled to an enhanced, premium experience. From your first introduction to your sales executive, to the handing over of your dream car. Essentially, you choose us to be your family for years to come.
“Having a comfortable customer lounge and a well-equipped workshop speaks to how much the space can ultimately shape your experience; our wish is for this to only, always be a heightened level of service,” he said.
He said staffing is almost 60 per cent complete with both sales and service staff.
“Our highly trained staff are ready to service cars, with additional sales and after sales members joining us later on in the year. Overall, our team will comprise some of the most outstanding talent in the automotive industry, some with as much as 15 years of premium after sales experience, delivering the results that BMW and Mini owners expect.”
He said certified master technicians are abeing recruited to ensure that they operate a "fix first time" policy to keep customers’ cars where they are supposed to be: on the road.
“Furthermore, the best people have been enlisted from the former dealer to make the transition for our customers as seamless as possible. They, and our ‘new’ people, will be brought in to be trained and retrained in accordance with BMW and Mini brand standards.”
He said BMW is the “number one premium brand” in Trinidad, and pre-orders and downpayments have already been made for new cars. They are slated to arrive by the middle of November and the dealership will have the full complement of models by mid-December, he said.
“Through our partnership, we will be working extremely closely with our colleagues in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, to learn from their own experiences to make ours perfect.”
Asked about the feedback from customers since the transition to the new dealers, general manager Jean Paul Agostini said, “People are excited for the change. They are excited for what they hope and what we know will be an improved service experience.
“If you drive down Dundonald Street right now, there is massive construction happening, so everybody is anticipating something big, something new and fresh. The state-of-the-art facility that we are developing will definitely be a welcome change, and will certainly give us a competitive advantage.
"As for the customers that are currently requesting service, most are very pleased at how we are handling the transition and are excited to see what the future holds.”
“The state-of-the-art facility that we are developing will definitely be a welcome change, and will certainly give us a competitive advantage. As for the customers that are currently requesting service, most are very pleased at how we are handling the transition and are excited to see what the future holds.”