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Auto Express and Happy Van join forces

From left, Roy and Gena Dennison of Happy Van Imports with new partners Danielle Pacheco and Daniel Hayward of Auto Express (Photograph supplied)

Roy and Gena Dennison are victims of their own success.

In the two years they have been running Happy Van Imports, demand has been sky high for their commercial vehicles imported second-hand from Japan.

“We have reached our saturation point,” Mr Dennison said.

One of their big challenges has been storing their vehicles and transporting them around the island for repairs, cleaning, licensing and delivery to customers.

“You need trade plates,” he said. “But the law states that we have to have a garage to get trade plates.”

Until recently, they stored their products at three different locations around the island, including the top level of Bulls Head Car Park in Hamilton.

But now, instead of renting space from others, they are going into partnership with Auto Express on Addendum Lane in Pembroke.

Danielle Pacheco and her fiance, Daniel Hayward, will be handling the business on the Auto Express side of things. Mr Hayward is a carpenter for the Corporation of Hamilton and Ms Pacheco runs Auto Express for her father, Paul Pacheco, and also an accounting business of her own called Checks and Balances.

“We were looking for somewhere to invest our money,” Ms Pacheco said. “My dad came to us and suggested it. It sounded good to us.”

The aim is to make Auto Express a one-stop shop for Happy Van. Any work that needs to be done on the imported vehicles can be done by Auto Express. And the vehicles will be kept on the premises.

“We have several old vehicles in the parking lot that we use for parts,” Ms Pacheco said. “We will be moving those to Curving Avenue, to make room for Happy Van.”

They will also be hiring a mechanic trained in servicing Japanese vehicles and another employee to drive the vehicles around to appointments such as licensing or delivery.

Ms Pacheco will also answer the phone for Happy Van. When the partnership goes through in the coming months, Happy Van Imports will become Happy Van Imports Limited.

“We will be a limited liability company,” Mr Dennison said.

The business got its start when Mr Dennison brought in a vehicle from a Japanese auction for his own business, Dennison Enterprise, which includes Aquaponics Bermuda and General Equipment Repairs and Maintenance.

“I tried to buy one second-hand here, but the second-hand commercial vehicle market is not that big,” he said. “I couldn’t find what I wanted. I was using a private vehicle but that wasn’t ideal.”

Japanese used vehicles are sought after for several reasons.

“They don’t use salt on the roads there in the winter time,” Mr Dennison said.

“So the vehicles are in better condition.”

Also, the car culture in Japan means that drivers do not hold on to their vehicles for a long time. And the Japanese themselves usually do not go to vehicle auctions because it is frowned on to buy a used car.

Mr Dennison was not entirely happy with the first vehicle he imported for himself.

“It wasn’t the right one for me,” he said.

So he put it on the market in Bermuda and it sold quickly. Seeing an opportunity, he brought in two more, then four, then eight.

“That really started the ball rolling,” Mr Dennison said.

He sells Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Fuso ranging from 2017 to 2003 models. He has sold some vans for under $6,000.

He said that having second-hand commercial vehicles available for purchase allows many new entrepreneurs in Bermuda to get started. He sells a lot of small vans to electricians, carpenters and plumbers.

“We are filling in that void for people who do not have the ability to get a bank loan and get a new vehicle,” he said.

But he gets a lot of calls from people looking to buy a used private car or van from Japan. It is currently illegal for Mr Dennison to import and sell used private vehicles.

“I had a call from one woman whose minivan had broken down,” he said. “She had four or five kids and needed a minivan to transport them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help her and she really couldn’t afford to buy a new van. So she was out of luck.”

He would like Government to legalise the import of used private vehicles.

“But I don’t think that will happen,” he said.

He said that there was too much pressure from the large car dealerships to stop it.

“I don’t think it would put them out of business,” he said. “If you can afford to buy a new car or truck, you buy one. People say that we don’t have parts for these vehicles in Bermuda but that’s not true. You can get any part for any vehicle that is sold.”

For more information see Happy Van Imports on Facebook, call 333-0095 or e-mail roy@happyvanimports.com.

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Published October 20, 2021 at 7:51 am (Updated October 20, 2021 at 3:59 pm)

Auto Express and Happy Van join forces

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