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In early 1955, a young motor mechanic, Louis Raff, left smoggy Johannesburg with his wife Anne and their two sons, to set up shop in ‘the countryside’ at Argus Motors, a ramshackle filling station with a workshop and adjoining pondok on Great North Road in Brentwood Park, a few kilometers north of Benoni on the east Rand.
The ‘business’ was purchased for £800 from a private operator while the license to sell fuel was obtained from the Shell Company, which in turn held the lease on the five-acre property Argus Motors was situated on.
When you deal with Argus Motor Company, you are assured of total customer satisfaction and service. You are dealing with a company that is steeped in business ethics and an ethos that you, the valued customer, is all important
In what was zoned as a ‘sub-economic’ area, Brentwood Park proved a tough testing ground for Louis and Anne, who lived ‘off-grid’, relying on candle power, a windmill and an outhouse to supply their utilities, while a pre-war Onen lighting plant (a 3hp generator) provided unreliable and often dangerous voltage to power the four Argus Motors fuel pumps.
By the early 1960s Louis and Anne had four sons (Larry, Ronnie, Mark and Chaim) and a singular mission to not only upgrade Argus Motors, but also to own the land it was situated on. To achieve this meant convincing the Shell Company board of directors in Johannesburg to install a new generator and provide the necessary loan capital to modernize the Argus Motors forecourt and workshop.
Faced with obdurate corporate red tape, Louis and Anne ‘stormed’ Shell House to present their business case- that Argus Motors has great potential in the growing Benoni district and with the necessary capital, could finally become a viable concern.
Both Louis and Anne, on separate visits to the Shell head offices, made such an impression on the suits that they not only had a new 12hp generator installed but also acquired the necessary loans to give Argus Motors a full bricks and mortar overhaul.
By the mid-1970s, both Larry and Ronnie were working in the family business which had established itself as the leading service station in the area, thanks to Louis’ “honesty, generosity and dedication to quality workmanship,” says Anne. “Not only were we able to buy the land but also begin building new facilities on it which we could rent to other automotive business.”
Born with an entrepreneurial gift, Larry, then in his mid-20s, soon recognized the massive potential replacement parts could have. Wholesale agency contracts were duly signed with leading ISO-accredited parts suppliers and Argus Motor Company took a giant leap forward, into the highly competitive business of distributing aftermarket parts to retail motor spares shops. Leading brands such as DOE, BETA, Argus Motoring and X-APPEAL that are recognized today in the market-place were registered.
As the 20th Century drew to a close the Raff family and its loyal staff had developed Argus Motor Company into a leading southern African parts supplier, with a distribution infrastructure servicing all the ASDC countries, supplying OE-quality branded replacement parts to automotive spares outlets.
Today, with Larry and Ronnie as directors, together with Mark and Chaim who both follow their respective professions, yet are equally involved, Argus Motor Company enjoys its third generation of Raff talent in Louis and Anne’s grandchildren, Moishe (COO), Baruch (CTO) and Shifra (CFO). A massive warehouse equipped with high-tech inventory management and dispatching systems keeps a fleet of delivery bakkies busy five days a week, while contracted courier companies deliver the long distance orders from over 2500 Argus Motors customers.
“Our focus is on supplying quality replacement parts with exceptional backup service to the retail spares trade,” says Ronnie. “Our 5000 square meter warehouse has over 20 000 stock items of both leading and Argus-branded products covering the full spectrum of popular replacement parts and accessories, which are digitally catalogued for swift identification and accurate merchandising.”
With the credo, ‘people sell to people’ underpinning its day-to-day operations, superior customer service will always be the primary driver of Argus. “When you deal with Argus Motor Company, you are assured of total customer satisfaction and service. You are dealing with a company that is steeped in business ethics and an ethos that you, the valued customer, is all important,” concludes Larry.