BALANCE, ALIGMNENT AND APPLICATION
From flipping cars to building businesses, Corghi Australia’s Andrew Cornwell has carved out a niche in the automotive aftermarket which aligns with his passion for innovation
Looking forward, identifying new trends and taking calculated risks is all in a day’s work for Andrew Cornwell, the General Manager of Corghi Australia.
He was born in Brunswick, Victoria, but soon after, his family moved to New South Wales – a state he has called home ever since.
“Growing up, I always had a passion for cars. So, when I was offered an apprenticeship with a BMW and Datsun dealership, I jumped at the chance,” Andrew said.
Never one to rest on his laurels, it was not long before Andrew put his newly developed skills to work, purchasing trade-ins from the dealership, fixing them up on the weekend, and flipping them for a profit.
“The apprenticeship was great, and I really enjoyed the work, but the wages were horrible. I think I was taking home about $50 per week,” Andrew quipped.
Flipping cars was an excellent way for Andrew to make a little extra cash on the side, and in looking back on this period, Andrew realised it allowed him the opportunity to develop his sales skills as well.
“It’s funny to think about it now, but I made good money out of fixing up and flipping Toyota Coronas,” Andrew reminisced.
“I also remember picking up a red Subaru trade-in. Nobody wanted them at the time, and the dealer could not wholesale it, so I grabbed it for a steal, fixed it up, and drove it around for a while. It was a cracker little car, but at the time, no one knew what a Subaru was – wow how have times changed!”
After finishing his apprenticeship and getting his ticket as a fully qualified mechanic, Andrew tried his hand as a car salesman in the same dealership. Still, he quickly discovered it was not the job for him.
“I hate high-pressure sales,” said Andrew. “I’m passionate about helping customers find the right solution for their needs, and anyone in car sales will tell you that it’s a numbers game, and it just wasn’t right for me.”
As luck would have it, Andrew’s neighbour at the time was working for Repco, and one day as they were chatting over the fence, he mentioned they were on the hunt for a new Equipment Sales Representative. That was all the incentive Andrew needed to point his career in a new direction.
“During my time as a mechanic, I used a wide variety of workshop equipment, so I knew what worked and what didn’t,” Andrew explained.
“I took this experience, applied it to my new role in Repco, and found that my customers appreciated the insights I could provide. My time as a mechanic meant that I could relate to their issues and recommend the right machinery to suit their specific needs.”
Quickly, Andrew realised he had made the right decision to join Repco.
“I was 25 at the time, and once I’d started equipment sales, I just fell in love with the job. I knew it was for me and decided that this was the niche in which I’d build my career in the automotive aftermarket,” said Andrew.
During his seven-year tenure at Repco, Andrew specialised in workshop and diagnostic equipment sales, including wheel aligners, balancers, and air-conditioning equipment.
“These are high involvement, high investment purchases for workshops. I enjoyed the challenge of matching our range of equipment to their customer profiles and workshop space to ensure they chose the right machine for their purposes,” said Andrew.
“It’s something I still enjoy today, that personal service combined with a passion for helping our customers improve efficiencies and ultimately drive profitability still gets me out of bed in the morning, even after all these years.”
Continuing his career in workshop equipment, Andrew would spend time at Balco and Beissbarth, honing his skills and building his reputation as an automotive equipment specialist before Corghi knocked on his door and tasked him with the challenge of building the brand in Australia.
“Before I jumped on board, Corghi workshop machinery had been represented in Australia by several different distributors, but none gave it the attention it deserved,” Andrew described.
“In 2013, the Corghi family decided it was time to own their destiny in the Australian market.
“I was tasked with building the brand and to do that, we needed stock on the ground and a full range of spare parts, so we opened a warehouse and appointed sales and service technicians around the country.”
Corghi tyre equipment is renowned the world over for innovation, quality, and precision. Still, it had little brand recognition or equity in Australia, so while the range was excellent, Andrew had a huge task to increase market penetration.
“Our plan was to educate workshop owners and managers about how they can make their business run more efficiently, reduce downtime, and increase productivity by selecting the right combination of Corghi machinery,” explained Andrew.
“Based on this fundamental premise and supported by our team of highly skilled technicians, we have built a reputation as the premier workshop equipment brand in Australia.”
Of course, this rise has not been without its challenges as the landscape of the automotive aftermarket is continually changing.
Change is the one constant in this industry, and the most significant shift has been the trend towards tyre manufacturers vertically integrating their supply channel, says Andrew.
“This trend towards vertical integration has been driven by the continual erosion of margin across decades,” Andrew explained.
“Tyre manufacturers are in a huge battle for market share, and to do this, they need complete control over their channel to market. They have become retailers as well as manufacturers and now represent their brands through direct retail stores.”
This vertical integration is a double-edged sword for Corghi. Working with key accounts is a volume game that squeezes margin, but manufacturers understanding that investing in quality equipment and training ensures their product performs at its full potential.
“Even the best tyre will perform like a 50-cent piece if it is fitted incorrectly, and tyre manufacturers understand that more than anyone. While it has squeezed margins, vertical integration has also unfolded new opportunities,” Andrew said.
“Wheel assembly and the tyre are a crucial part of the car’s overall performance and there is change occurring around technical attitudes towards wheels and tyres rather than, ‘Oh, it’s just a black thing that runs around on the road.’”
Corghi was quick to identify that product differentiation in the tyre industry is a challenge and has reportedly leveraged its position as world leaders in workshop equipment innovation to assist manufacturers in this area.
“It’s a lot easier to differentiate on service and technical expertise. Tyre manufacturers are using that vertical integration to highlight their technical expertise,” Andrew said.
“Their goal is to restore their customers’ driving experience so that their vehicle feels exactly like it did when it rolled off the showroom floor.”
Of course, the highly experienced team at Corghi also services a considerable number of independent workshops in addition to large, national retail chains.
“Competition is critical, and there will always be the need for independent workshops to prosper to keep the larger chains honest,” said Andrew.
“We work closely with independents to ensure they specify the right equipment for their mix of vehicles. From passenger and four-wheel-drives all the way to industrial and agricultural tyres, we have a machine that will deliver repeatable and dependable results time and time again.”
There is little doubt that Andrew is an automotive aftermarket journeyman with a wealth of experience.
“Equal parts tenacity and attitude, mixed with a passion for learning will set you on the right pathway,” Andrew said when asked what qualities are required to build a long and successful career in the automotive aftermarket.
“You can always learn new skills, but the right attitude will get you further in this industry than technical expertise alone.”
Andrew’s passion for learning is reflected in Corghi’s long-term AAAA Membership.
“The AAAA is the mouthpiece for the automotive aftermarket,” said Andrew.
“But more than that, the insights, training, and market intelligence they share with members is invaluable. Our team use this market intelligence to identify future trends, and it helps us frame our rolling five-year business plan.
“If you’re in the automotive aftermarket and not already an AAAA member, I strongly suggest getting involved,” he added.
To find out more about Corghi Australia, visit www.corghi.com.au