With a vision to offer the crème de la crème of electric vehicles to the Caribbean, John Felder created Cayman Automotive, an innovative leasing, marketing and sales company that had a sustainable and environmentally responsible future in its sights. Endeavour Magazine spoke with Felder, to find out more about what drives his continued success.
Incorporated in 2005, Cayman Automotive might be a relative newcomer to the automotive industry, but that certainly hasn’t stopped John Felder, Owner and CEO, from achieving incredible success in a short space of time. While you might think that the introduction of electric vehicles to the Caribbean would have been a welcome innovation, Felder is candid about the struggles he had to overcome,
“When I made a decision to begin marketing and selling electric vehicles in Grand Cayman, this was not possible because the current laws did not include electric engines, so the vehicles could not be licensed. I worked tirelessly for seven years and on November 11, 2011, The Cayman Islands Government changed the law to allow electric vehicles to be driven on public roads. The fact that I did not give up was inspiring to many Caymanians who still say that I never gave up.”
Naturally, finding ways to ensure the sustainability of the planet are vital, but with such hurdles to tackle, right from the outset, it is truly incredible that Felder never once considered giving up on his dream. When you discover that the company now boasts a nothing short of impressive annual revenue, it was clearly a dream worth pursuing, but now is not the time to sit back and get complacent. Felder makes it clear that continued innovation and customer satisfaction-driven initiatives are the only way to maintain his amazing grip on the electric automotive industry,
“Cayman Automotive’s core business is automotive sales, leasing and service. Our slogan, “We service what we sell”, is critical because we are the only company in the Caribbean that have the diagnostic equipment, training and over 30 years’ experience in the automotive industry and we offer a warranty on every vehicle that we sell, which is a first in the Caribbean.”
He goes on to add,
“Our Platinum Leasing Plan is the most customer focused lease plan available anywhere. The service includes comprehensive insurance, all factory maintenance, mechanical breakdown coverage, 24-7 roadside assistance, courtesy airport delivery and pickup. Our customer demographic is the college-educated, professional, 35-65 age group, with an environmentalist ethos. Most of our customers are in Grand Cayman. We sell new and used vehicles from both the US and the UK, so we can provide customers with either a left or right hand drive position.”
2009 must seem like a lifetime ago now, but that’s when the first electric vehicles were introduced to the Caribbean, by Cayman Automotive and the fleet has grown to an impressive size. With Nissan Leaf, Tesla, Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Bolt, Vauxhall Ampera, BYD and JACChevrolet Spark EV all now readily available from Cayman Automotive, there is truly a vehicle for everyone and there are industrial interests rising as well. Partnering with Smith Electric Vehicles has meant that Cayman Automotive was able to ingratiate itself into the competitive commercial vehicles market by offering the first 100% electric fleet trucks and vans. The impressive partnerships don’t end there though, as ZEV Electric has also come onboard to offer the world’s longest-range motor scooters and motorcycles to the Caribbean.
Operating throughout The Bahamas, Cuba, Grand Cayman and Barbados already, Jamaica is soon to be added to the extensive network of dealers that Felder has collated, but the question has to be asked; how buoyant is the electric vehicles market?
“The current state of the Caymanian market is robust and growing. Competition is limited because it’s difficult to sell vehicles that you cannot offer the service after the sale.”
Dominating the market is not the only concern for Felder and his team, however, as they want these vehicles to be easy to use, a pleasure to own and simple to operate, which is why an extensive network of charging points have been created,
“To accommodate the needs of Grand Cayman’s ever growing ownership of electric vehicles, Cayman Automotive was instrumental in providing the network of charging stations that will handle your needs from West Bay to East End. To take advantage of the sun’s abundance of renewable energy, Cayman Automotive introduced the first solar panel charging stations in the Caribbean. We also have two authorised service centres in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, to handle the service needs of customers on the sister islands.”
Felder went on to note that,
“On January 11, 2011, Premier Automotive Export, which is a division of Cayman Automotive Leasing, received approval for the first Export License to ship vehicles from the U.S. to Cuba. On March 17, 2017 the historic Launch Event was held in Havana, Cuba with the Embassy of Guyana taking delivery of a Nissan Leaf and Clipper Creek Level II Fast Charge Station.”
With a fantastic product on offer, monopoly of the market and an eye for future innovations, Cayman Automotive seem to have it made, but all of this could easily fall by the wayside, if a team of committed customer service agents were not in place. We don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that Felder is insistent that every client is treated like royalty and when his team lives up to this strict mantle, they are rewarded appropriately,
“Our customer service is very customer focused and I inform every employee that when you interact with any of our customers, they are to treat them as if they were my parents. We promote from within, provide continuous training support and there is currently nine employees.”
Given that Cayman Automotive is a company that keeps getting stronger and more successful, it is refreshing to hear that something as simple as exemplar customer service will guarantee employees a future with prospects. Expertise is not something to be brought in, from outside, on a whim, but rather, nurtured from within, making every single facet of the company far more sustainable than many large companies and, we assume, a guarantee of a small staff turnover.
Having enjoyed incredible support from several vendors, Felder is keen to mention a few in particular that have been instrumental in the introduction of electric vehicles to the Caribbean. Hurley’s Market Place, Camana Bay, Governors Square, Cricket Square, Cayman Islands Government, The Bahamas Government, Caribbean Utility Corporation (CUC), Island Heritage, and Winston Connolly all make the list.
There’s absolutely no doubting that Cayman Automotive will continue driving the industry forward and with a newfound agreement reached with Budget-rent-A-Car in Grand Cayman, a 100% electric fleet of rental cars will soon be on offer as well. It just goes to show that if you have vision, passion and determination, anything is possible and we can’t wait to see Felder’s future ideas made reality.