As we stepped inside the reception area of Mercedes parts specialists, Dronsfields’, a well established business based in Oldham, Manchester, we were greeted by a huge Alsatian named Holly, who happened to be sitting in the waiting area, with the appearance of being a customer. Security perhaps? something we jokingly asked the person behind the counter. The response was a jovial one “She’s the CEO!”.
Already feeling comfortable in this large and well known establishment, we were then met by one of the directors, Angela Dronsfield.
We were keen to find out about the setup of Dronsfield; where they began, how it is now and their views on the future of the industry. And as a female in a male dominated industry, we were keen to know how such a position is perceived.
Angela told us that her father, Melvyn Dronsfield founded the company 50 years ago and that he is still active within the business, although he’s not in the ‘front firing line’, he is involved in the overall running of the business. It’s very much a family business with her younger brother, Ian, as head of sales and Angela, who is involved in the organisation of the business. Although this does not mean she isn’t hands on with other aspects of the business where required. She told us that everyone gets involved, “it’s all hands on deck.”
From the beginning Dronsfields traded in vans and commercial vehicles and then decided to specialise in Mercedes Benz cars and Mercedes parts. For Angela, initially it wasn’t her aspiration to enter into the family business, so she made the decision to go to college but her father, who knew her best, told her she was ‘wasting her time’. He was right and Angela began her working life at Dronsfields. She told us that she started at the bottom from floor sweeping to driving vans (tasks which she was familiar with from her past experiences growing up and working on site), to working her way up through all departments to grasp the business as a whole to her current position as a director, a position she has now held for 15 years. She told us that she ‘hasn’t been treated any better than any other member of staff’, regardless of being the owner’s daughter.
The business has always been in the Oldham area and the current site has been in place for the last 10 years, a move they chose to do purely for access reasons and something which the previous site failed due to it’s steeply sloped entrance.
At present their workforce exceeds 40 staff; the majority of the workforce are involved with the parts side of the business and the remainder make up dismantling and servicing.
They have five Mercedes Benz trained mechanics in their workshop where they use the same computer as Mercedes allowing them to do everything Mercedes does at reduced prices but without the glamour and it is a side of the business which is always busy. Angela pointed out that they can accommodate their customer’s financial requirements, for example, ‘someone with a 15 year old car doesn’t necessarily want to buy brand new parts’. But obviously this service doesn’t end with older vehicles as they can assist anyone with any age vehicle.
We then headed through into the huge parts store unit. Not only a store for 27000 parts but there is plenty of room for vehicle dismantling and using their photo booth for advertising parts to sell online. Angela told us that they have had two new ramps installed and got their depollution system back up and running.
Over the past 15 years they have made a number of changes necessary to keep up with the change in market. They are an international company and deal with many countries in export. Their open door policy allows visitors from overseas to come to them for the purpose of exporting. 90% of their stock is Mercedes, the other 10% makes up other models. Angela told us that they can provide these parts for their overseas vehicle dismantler customers if there is a specific part they require, whereas UK based customers generally require only Mercedes parts. And on this particular visit, Angela told us that they had customers from Cyprus, Jordan and Lithuania. She told us that customers let them know what they’re looking for and then come to collect which is another busy side of the business and with a stock of around 400 cars, there are plenty of parts for exporters to choose from and in part of the breaking site, they have a large area where vehicle parts are made ready for exporting. A load was being made ready for collection the following day to Cyprus via a 40 ft container in the loading bay. A task which meant ‘all hands on deck’ for two to three hours.
Other aspects of the business is in fleet vehicles. They have several contracts with fleet companies, something which they have been involved with since 2001 and something they decided to do to make sure they have exposure to more than one market. So doing fleetwork, export and servicing gives them more exposure to certain markets instead of being contained in just one, something that seems to work well for Dronsfields.
We touched on what it is like to work in the industry as a woman and Angela told us that there has been some negative response in the past, in the way that some people don’t like dealing with a woman. But in the last 5 years equality has definitely been noticed. She admits that although physically, women are not as strong as men, when it comes to running businesses, women have the same capabilities.
Finally, we asked Angela about her thoughts on EVs and whether they see many entering their yard. She said that they see more EVs through the service department than through dismantling but not a substantial number. Although this has not stopped them having fully trained staff to deal with EVs. As for the future of EVs, Angela said: “As an industry, the dismantlers will always cope with it, it’s just another product that will be coming through our doors, but for the nation, the national grid, the infrastructure of EVs, how will it cope?”. She added: “As for the infrastructure we have nationally at this time, I think we are really going to struggle, there’s nothing better than a greener environment, I’m all for it, but as yet the efficiency isn’t there.”
As for EV ELVs, the majority of ‘dismantlers’ will wait until something more positive happens as there’s not enough research done to convince them that this is the way forward. At this moment in time, Dronsfields are compliant with everything that is required, when something else develops, they will do whatever is necessary to adapt.
Visit Dronsfields website at www.dronsfields.com