In photo: From left, Roy and Gena Dennison of Happy Van Imports with new partners, Danielle Pacheco and Daniel Hayward of Auto Express (Photograph supplied)
Roy Dennison imported his first van from Japan in January 2020 out of the need for an affordable option for his business.
“At the time I had no choice to buy a new vehicle and there was nothing on the second-hand market,” he said.
“I just needed a work van – something reliable to put my tools in and get me from A to B without a huge expense from the start.”
It was his son, Aaron, who was 10 at the time, who put the business idea in his head and he realised that there was a need for exactly this type of service.
He ended up selling the first van he imported and using that money to bring in two more vans, then another four – and then people started asking him to bring in vans for them as well.
As the business quickly grew, last October Happy Van brought on Danielle Hayward of Pembroke-based Auto Express to streamline services.
“We became saturated very quickly and having Danielle come onboard has helped us immensely,” Mr Dennison said. “She handles all the logistical side for us and it’s working out fantastic.
“We have a buyer in Japan who sources exactly what we’re looking for and makes sure the vehicles are in very good shape and checks them over before sending to us, which is key,” Mr Dennison said.
“If you buy from an auction site and then get it here and there are any issues nobody is accountable. But we make sure we are accountable and we even now offer a three-month warranty even though they are second-hand vehicles.”
The team on island work with customers to source the best van to meet their needs and then walk them through the process of not only getting their vehicle on the road but also providing advice for starting their business.
“You’re not just buying a vehicle from us, you’re getting a whole service and we go the extra mile,” Mrs Hayward said. “We have so many of our customers thank us for walking through all the steps.”
Mr Dennison added: “We can give advice from the very start, from opening your business, getting a registration number and applying for your permit and all the TCD procedures that you need to do. Anyone who buys a van off us, it’s very easy for them.”
Once the vehicle is on the road, the Auto Express team provides any after-service care on body, paint or mechanical work at a discounted rate, as well as the ability to source parts quickly through its new sister company, Parts Master.
Auto Express has a long history of repairing vehicles in Bermuda, and Mrs Hayward said they “know what specific things go on a vehicle and we make sure to have them in stock or how to source them quickly”.
In February, the company imported 36 vehicles, the majority of which were pre-sold.
Many customers have approached the company for advice on TCD procedures. Late last year, the company provided the Rotary Club with a van that was donated to the Gina Spence Productions charity. It now offers a discount to charities seeking out a vehicle.
“We are adding different services every day as we see what people need and are asking for,” Mrs Hayward said.
For its next move, the company is planning to put together a van to provide cleaning services.
“We want to offer any possible service we can to help people and make things smoother and give them a good experience – and they know they can trust us,” Mrs Hayward said.