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vehicle of the day, mostly used by taxi


“I got a place to rent just above the

Lada dealer on South Camp Road, and

that’s where I started. A lot of people

thought I was crazy to be putting a

business above the giant,” he


Recalling the series of events that

unfolded, he explained that the spot

was what was available to him and the

rent was cheap. Surprisingly, too, the

business flourished.

He said, “The dealer used to close

between twelve and one for lunch as

well as Saturdays and Sundays. I was

always open – on weekends and within

lunch time when lot of people

purchase their parts.”


“When I started this business I just

wanted to survive,” he said. “I told

myself, ‘Nobody is going to ever fire

me again. Even if I have to work 24

hours, seven days a week for this

business to become successful I’m

going to do it.’”

At the time, his only employee was

his mother, and for the first nine

months of the business, he did not

take a salary.

Even after expansion in 1991,

Bert’s Auto Parts was still selling

Lada parts. The clientele was

growing and satisfied, thanks to the

personalised service Tomlinson was

famous for.

Then in 1994, there was a change in

the industry. Used Japanese cars –

‘Deportees’ – began to dominate the

market. Eventually, Tomlinson received

a link to a Japanese supplier, which

allowed him to buy directly from the

manufacturer, and the rest, as they

say, is history.

Looking back on his journey, he

mused “When I came into this

business, I didn’t know the difference

between a nut and a screw. So I had to

learn the business. Whenever I’m

challenged in life, I rise to the



Today, Bert’s Auto Parts is the

number one Japanese parts dealer in

the country, offering servicing and car

sales as well.

Tomlinson believes his growth would

not have been possible without the

continued support of his staff who he

holds dear to him.

“They’re my colleagues,” he said.

“We run jokes, we have a good time. I

treat them with respect and I

appreciate what they do.”

Fifteen years ago, he opted to

establish a pension scheme. “I would

hate to know that somebody worked

here for a long time and retired then

had to beg family members,” he said.

To ease the concerns of some

staffers, he made a bold move to

increase their salaries and then

establish the pension plan, which is still

in solid existence.

Initiatives like these have kept Bert

Tomlinson on top of his game and

poised to maintain dominance in the

market for even 30 more years. He is

conscious of what the future may

hold. “I will have to drive the company

to a position to serve the new

generation better. They want to sit at

home, go on the website, say what

they want and have it brought to

them in a very short time. Another

challenge I’m going to face down the

road is electronic cars in approximately

10 years. I have to position the

business to take advantage of that,”

he said.

Still, he is grateful for all of life’s

challenges because in them, he found

the resolve to be the man he is today.

“They (his last employer) did me the

greatest favour ever in life by firing

me,” he said. “One of my mantras is

that in adversities, there are


I said to myself, ‘This can’t be too difficult, I need

to do this as a business’. One week after I got

fired, the bus turned over and killed two people,

so my life was in tatters – no job, no income.