Leading car specialists in South Africa
SAC – Since 1983 and still going strong
Nelson Mandela once said “there is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”, and after three decades of being in business, Steves Auto Clinic (SAC) and its founder Stephen Fischer has proven that passion is running stronger than ever through their veins.
It’s been a long and arduous journey for Fischer, who originally started SAC as a one-man tuning operation specialising in Alfa Romeo vehicles back in 1983, but who has since outgrown all expectations and boasts several divisions under the SAC umbrella. There are nine vehicle workshops countrywide that specialise in work on cars and bakkies, including SAC Engineering that’s a one stop cylinder-head shop. SAC Trucks, which started off as only a workshop, has morphed into a European Parts Specialist that has both a central workshop and warehouse, including five SAC Trucks parts-outlets nationwide. SAC also has its own Bike Division, which specialises in Harley Davidson Motorcycles. All these form part of the SAC brand, which along with national marketing is managed at their Holdings Office in Vanderbijlpark.
There is no doubt it took loads of dedication and hard work to be able to reach the point where one can celebrate 30 years of successfully being South Africa’s leading petrol and diesel performance-enhancement and maintenance specialists, but Fischer and SAC have achieved this illustrious goal.
However, Fischer humbly concedes that a legacy like SAC, and its success, can never be the work of only one man, and that over the years many people have – and still continue to – contribute to what the SAC brand has become. Stephen Fischer would personally like to thank each and every one that has contributed to the success of the company. Every customer, member of staff, supplier, manager and SAC branch owner who has walked beside Fischer in his dream of 30 long years, albeit a few times or thousands of times, without you SAC would never have become what it is today. Greatness comes with reaching such an achievement and SAC has earned the right to be called the leader in their industry.
Not only is it an achievement, but it’s really amazing. Go back and revisit your roots and you will notice that almost everything you remember from childhood in a certain town or district has changed. Gone are all the shops and restaurants you once remembered and in their places are the monotonous plastic brands you see everywhere in South Africa and all over the world of today. These types of places rely on cheap merchandise and labour, and know nothing about dedication and customer service. But then sometimes you will be lucky and find something as rare as the company that’s survived 30 years, and that company will end up being both as dedicated as ever to their customers, and as enduring in their pursuit of perfection as SAC. What more can you ask for?
Reaching the Thirty Year Mark is “almost” a lifelong commitment.
“I think a marriage between two people is probably the only other real long term commitment that most people make. The only difference is that with SAC you don’t get to celebrate your anniversary every year or every five years. It becomes a special anniversary,” says Fischer.
Looking back at his roots, Fischer explains that SAC was initially started as a service and repair shop in Vanderbijlpark. According to him a tune up wasn’t very sophisticated or technical in those days because the cars they worked on had points, plugs, condensers and the like.
“It really wasn’t rocket science,” jokes Fischer.
Back then he considered Alfa Romeos to be “very passion-orientated vehicles” and therefore SAC specialised in them. But Alfa Romeos soon made way for the Pocket Rocket era, the 2.1 Combis, the turbo diesels and so forth. The trends and popularity of certain types of vehicle and makes are what inspires SAC to work on them, regardless of whether they are cars, bakkies, bikes or trucks.
“SAC became very popular and well known. We became the specialists in the arena of a particular vehicle because we did so many of them and therefore it wasn’t difficult to get very good at it,” explains Fischer.
He says he often sits and wonders how everything happened, how the whole thing came together over the years, but then realises that it was the combination of the way they did business, how they befriended their customers and people they did business with.
“We cut our teeth on race tracks all over the country in the early days and found our way back there every now and then.”
“We were a close-knit family circle”.
Today, decades later, Fischer believes that SAC isn’t really a “critical mass” classic type of franchise.
“It might have been our intention back in 1997 to have a strong multiple franchise outlet organisation, but it was never to happen. It’s not easy and nearly impossible to maintain and sustain my high standards. We are a very systems-orientated, structured business and many people, regardless of what they think they are capable of, simply can’t survive in such a group. It is to this end that those still part of the group today are very special indeed, because some have come and gone for this very reason.
“At the very top of our list of products on offer is extraordinary service. It’s a very rare product in the automotive aftermarket performance enhancement and service industry,” says Fischer proudly.
He foresees more growth within SAC for the future, but it will happen at his pace. Fischer intends to venture into boating and quad-biking next, but also wishes to open a few more bakkie and car workshops.
“We are here to stay regardless of how demanding the industry has always been or might become. My commitment to everyone out there is that SAC will always maintain and expand our levels of service and our product range. We will continuously endeavour to bring our customers the best,” promises Fischer.
For the past three decades SAC’s foundation was built on innovation, integrity and professionalism, and for the next three decades they’re not planning on altering that.