Text and photos by Cheryl Tay
In 2006 when the COE prices were low and the economy was good, people were changing new cars frequently, giving the tyre trade a hard time as automotive-related businesses generally struggled to survive.
One such business was Huat Lee Batteries & Motor Service Pte Ltd which almost had to close doors then.
Started in 1972 by Roland Chan, Huat Lee was a humble shop at Owen Road before moving to Eunos and then to Autobay at Kaki Bukit where they have been since June 2009.
Today, Huat Lee is the first Goodyear Autocare Store in Singapore and has embraced the Goodyear branded retail concept since January 2011 after renovations completed at the end of last year.
Run by founder Roland Chan and his son Nigel, Huat Lee has seen significant improvement in the sales of tyres – from an average of 30 pieces a month previously, to an average of 160 pieces a month now! The first month they launched the Goodyear Autocare concept, they achieved an incredible sales of 220 tyre pieces. (See picture all the way below for more on Goodyear Autocare.)
Nigel, the elder of two children and the only son, started helping his father after he finished National Service in 2000. Equipped with a mechanical and manufacturing diploma, Nigel took the initiative to take up a car mechanic course in ITE so that he can better help his father with the business.
“I was already helping my father since I was 15, when my friends used to play during school holidays while I was changing tyres and getting my hands grimy. In the 1990s, there was a lack of technical knowledge from car mechanics as new car technologies were advancing quickly hence I decided to take up the course in ITE,” said Nigel, 32.
“The years between 2005 and 2007 were tough. My friends were earning salaries of $5,000 and more while I was struggling to cover costs. I even had to work as a property agent so I could earn some keep,” he added.
After the major downtime from 2005 to 2007, business started to pick up in 2007 as Huat Lee took a new direction of focusing on car servicing and not just the wheel. Extending beyond tyre care to all-round car servicing of mainly Japanese cars, Nigel managed to implement some of his ideas successfully, improving the business as a result.
Then in 2008, Nigel developed a website for the company and even incorporated an online store segment where products such as engine oil are sold. That same year, in between his busy schedule at work, Nigel also found time to complete a part-time Honours degree course in mechanical engineering from University of Wolverhampton.
“Honestly, I was initially hesitant about the Goodyear Autocare concept as I was afraid of not being able to meet the target. However, after thorough thinking and discussions with my father, we decided to go ahead with it. Goodyear has a strong branding and of course, excellent products too,” Nigel added.
Due to space constraints, servicing appointments are made through prior booking and walk-in customers might have to return on another day. To solve this, plans to expand and open a second store which can hold more cars and also have ample parking areas are in the works for Huat Lee.
Although Nigel is the second generation business owner, he has proven that his business ideas work, hence earning the autonomy from Roland, his father, to make most of the final decisions. Roland is still very much involved in the business but trusts his son to run the show.
“It wasn’t overnight that I was given such control. Working with parents is indeed very difficult and sometimes friends might ask why work so hard when there is a possibility of earning more outside with an alternative career. But I often tell them that it is filial piety and the heart that cannot bear to see the business fail that drove me to where I am today,” Nigel shared.
When asked if he would recommend other service providers to take up the Goodyear Autocare concept, he said, “I would strongly recommend others to become a Goodyear Autocare Store. The superior tyres they produce coupled with the fantastic support provided by the Goodyear team have boosted my business greatly. I hope to see more peers in the market take up this program so we can all help to improve the overall tyre industry standards in terms of retail service value and share the ‘fruits’ together!”
Name: Nigel Chan
Designation: Service Consultation
Company: Huat Lee Batteries & Motor Service Pte Ltd
Marital Status: Single
*This was first published in Goodyear Singapore’s trade publication.