In this month’s business hour, David Fearnhead speaks to Ross Butterworth of Dales Subaru and A to B Vehicles to find what has made their family-run business the fastest-growing new Subaru dealership ever
‘A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing.’ It’s a line from David Mamet’s 1980’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross. A play that was later adapted into a movie of the same name, and a ~movie which became a rite of passage for a certain kind of salesman. Much like the famed ‘Greed is good’ speech from Wall St, ‘Always be closing’ was originally intended as an indictment of the hard sell but soon found itself adopted as a mantra. I doubt Ross Butterworth has ever seen Glengarry Glen Ross.
“There is no pressure to buy the car. It’s not one of those glass showrooms in which you feel intimidated. It’s really not. You can always come in for a coffee, it’s that kind of place,” says Ross of their success. “We’re not slick salesmen, we’re a family-run business, so it’s more people wanting to deal with us and we have a product we believe in.”
It’s an approach that works. Look up any independent online reviews for Dales Subaru or their sister company A to B Vehicles and you’ll see ‘friendly’ is a word that crops up a lot, along with ‘great service’ and ‘family’. Family is important to them, both Ross’ wife Alison and son Nathan work in what is a traditional family business which has been operating since 1993. Though Ross’ love of cars goes back even further than that.
At 18 he sold his first car, and soon found that a sideline could become a living. It was a passion that became a vocation: “A love of cars was always there, I literally just did it off my own back, and it’s gone on from there.”
Whilst some learn the patter of car sales casuals, or the ‘slick salesmen’ as Ross calls them, he is a little bit different.
His petrolhead credentials are legitimate. He currently owns a 1972 L-reg Mark I Ford Escort which he uses to compete in NESCRO Classic Rallying events in the North of England and Scotland.
“This year we’ve not been able to do much because we’ve been so busy in the workshop, which is brilliant in one way and quite frustrating in another. Hopefully towards the end of the year we’ll be able to make a few events. Dales Subaru sponsor a rally up in Scotland called the Saltire Rally which is a good little event bordering the Cairngorms National Park. And we sell cars up there as well,” he adds.
A brief look at the Saltire Rally Club’s website reveals that in 2016 the winner was one Ross Butterworth with co-driver Ali Procter. So you might think that running a Subaru dealership, a marque which dominated the World Rally Championship in the mid to late nineties, was a carefully chosen path.
“Not at all, it was just that there was nobody in the area servicing cars and we saw a little gap in the market. We became an independent specialist in Subaru. One day their Area Manager saw our sign and called in. We started in May 2015 as a dealership and are now the fastest growing new Subaru dealer that they’ve ever had.”
Subaru owners tend to be a loyal bunch, and Ross knows why.
“We’ve specialised in them for a long time. I believe in the product. The engineering is very specific – boxer engines and symmetrical all-wheel drive – it’s the only manufacturer in the world with that layout. Which makes them very good off-road. A lot of four wheel drive cars only engage four wheel drive when they are in trouble. A Subaru doesn’t get into the same trouble because it’s already in four wheel drive. They can go anywhere in any conditions, you don’t have to worry about going out in your car. Obviously with the winters that we’ve been having, it just makes them very dependable. So I think once people have experienced them and what they can do, nothing else will do for them. They are always near the top when it comes to reliability.”
2018 has seen the launch of the all new family compact XV which Ross says is one of the safest cars on the road. Another car which grabs the attention is the BRZ, a cracking looking lightweight, front-engined, rear-drive sports coupé. “We’ve already sold two of them this month, they’re a great car.”
Another successful arm of the company is A to B vehicles. “We have 30 vans and cars on the road for self-drive either as daily rentals or on long-term contracts. We go from your little Toyota Aygo to estates and pick-ups. As a local family run company, we do well with the hire side.”
Ross is keen to stress that they don’t just sell and service Subaru: “We have a busy workshop that can take care of any of your motoring needs. From being a teenager right through to owning your own business, we’ll look after everybody.”