Reflect Auto-Care 'clean up' with Sprinter fleet
The Sprinter: Making Christams happen for 25 years
In our third edition of ‘The Sprinter: Making Christmas happen for 25 years’ we speak to Gary Meaney, Managing Director of Reflect Auto-Care. Gary shares with us how Reflect Auto-Care started from the comort of his home, to now being the largest automotive detailing supplier in the country, the positive outcomes they have seen from COVID-19, and why he takes such pride in his award-winning Sprinter fleet.
Tell me about Reflect Auto Care?
I started Reflect Auto Care in 2012 from my home with only myself in the business. At the start I was doing Sales out on the road in one van. In 2013 I then employed my right-hand man Neil, who came on board the Reflect Auto Care team. At this stage I had a second van out on the road and I just kept pushing and growing the business from then.
We are probably the largest supplier of automotive detailing supplies in Ireland at the moment. We sell around 300,000 litres of detergent a year. My wife and my sister got involved in the business to help out in the background. As the business grew, we went from 1 to 14 staff over an 8-year period. I wanted local employees and that’s what has worked for us throughout the years. We then supply a lot of local businesses. I started out selling our products to car dealerships and it grew from there. We now supply some big Dealership Groups and Manufacturers too. We also get a lot of business from Hauliers, Bus, Coach and Taxi companies.
We supply our products not only to businesses but also directly to customers. We recently opened our new shop in Millennium Business Park. We outgrew the last unit we had so we purchased 2 larger units. One of the units is now a walk-in shop and the other unit is our warehouse. We supply everything you need from the start to finish of cleaning a car or van. We then also supply detailing products for people that are really into detailing cars and vans, which has become very popular in Ireland over the past couple of years. The business is constantly growing and its going in the right direction.
Tell me about your fleet?
We own and operate 8 commercial vehicles in our fleet; 4 trucks and 4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. My first van was a second-hand 2004 Sprinter 313. I thought that it was a great van so I then bought a couple of Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. I purchased a 516 twin-wheel Sprinter and it was great for the weight we were carrying.
Currently we have 4 Sprinters: a 14 316 auto, a 16 319 auto, a 191 319 auto and a brand new 201 319 manual. They are lovely Sprinters and very recognizable on the road with our branding. We have a large Mercedes-Benz logo in chrome on the side of all our vans too and they stand out very well.
We’ve been a Mercedes-Benz customer since 2016 when we purchased our first brand-new Sprinter from M50 Truck & Van Centre. We have a great relationship with Kevin Maye and all the team in M50 TVC and we’ve became great friends throughout the years. At the drop of a hat they will always help us if we need anything.
What attracted you to the Mercedes-Benz vehicles?
I worked for Ratcliffe Transport and they had Mercedes-Benz Trucks. They bought the first Actros ‘Mega Space’ that was brought into Ireland in 2006 and I drove that for a while. It was a lovely truck that I took great pride in it. Back in the day I always took the Actros to Truck shows and I often won prizes for it. I loved keeping it clean, I think that’s where my love for cleaning vehicles stemmed from. I always say ‘if you have a vehicle, keep it clean, keep It right’. That was my first experience with a Mercedes-Benz vehicle and I loved it.
Every year now we go to the Punchestown ‘Full of the Pipe’ Truck show where we bring our Sprinters with us. Mercedes-Benz have a truck stand at it and they’ve included our vans on their stand for the last couple of years. We have even won prizes for our Sprinters throughout the years at Truck & Van Shows in Ireland and in Scotland too. We’d be sponsors for a couple of the big truck shows in Ireland. I find that they are great for promoting our business. Please God in 2021 we can get back to a couple of shows.
What is it about the Sprinter that appeals to you as a fleet owner?
They look really smart on the road; they look the part! The weight is also a big factor too as it allows us to carry large loads. We did have another brand of van and it just wasn’t fit for purpose so we have stuck with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinters ever since. The service we get is also brilliant, everyone at M50 TVC are always very helpful.
What is the most attractive thing about the Sprinter?
The 319 engines, I love the v6 engine in them. The pulling power that they have is great and they are well able to take a heavy load. The comfort of driving the Sprinter is lovely. The drivers always comment that it’s like driving a car, very comfortable. The reversing cameras are also another positive our drivers report back on!
What is the primary function that your fleet is used for?
Our vans are like mobile shops. We do ‘milk-runs’ whereby we call to the same customers weekly, fortnightly or monthly, depending on their needs. We know the runs that the vehicles are going on in advance. If there is anything heavier in weight, we would then transport those loads on our trucks. All direct deliveries and orders are done by our team. We then use couriers for all of our online orders.
Our fleet is in use every single day. Our vans would leave here every morning at 9am and be back every evening around 5pm. We would cover the Leinster & Mid-lands regions mainly. We also have distributors throughout Ireland too. We wouldn’t clock up huge mileage annually, around 10,000km per year. A lot of what we do is start-stop runs.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
We recently moved shops which was quite stressful, it’s something that’s been in the pipeline since January 2020. We have been open as essential shop throughout COVID19 as we sell essential supplies such as hand sanitizers, gloves and workwear. When the first lockdown happened, our online shop did really well. A lot of people were stuck at home and they wanted to clean their cars themselves. We did a ‘clean your car at home’ campaign and it did really well and helped our online sales. We had some of our employees ‘furloughed’ due to COVID-19. Our warehouse became so busy with online orders that we had to bring our staff back!
We were really in a lucky position when COVID-19 happened in March. At the time we were able to get hand sanitizer in quickly from our suppliers, so that was a huge benefit for us. We were also in a lucky position to be able to donate sanitizer and PPE equipment to the local guard station, fire station, ambulance and local nursing homes – I personally went down myself and hand delivered them to ensure they had the products to keep them safe. It was great to be able to do all of those donations and help out where we could.
We’ve had a good positive outcome throughout the pandemic. At the end of the day its cleaning supplies that we sell and we all know that’s the most important thing at the minute with COVID-19 – keeping things clean and keeping vehicles clean also.
Is Christmas a particularly busy time for Reflect Auto Care?
Coming up to Christmas is our ‘busy-busy’ time of the year. It varies sometimes but with it being Winter time, screen wash, AdBlue and detergent are the 3 biggest sellers we would have at this time of the year. We’d sell a lot more detergent than we do in the summer months due to cars being dirtier as a result of the bad weather. In Summer time our waxes and polishes are very popular. Overall, this year has been really good for us even throughout the lockdowns, if anything we took on more business! Our fleet is in full operation right up until our Christmas break. We usually close at Christmas for a week but this year we’re going to open our shop for one day over Christmas for the first time.
Is the Sprinter a key player in making Christmas happen for Reflect Auto Care?
Yes, it definitely would be. The vans look great on the road. When we finish up for Christmas, we do a big wash on all the vans and have them ready to go in January for the new year.