The reason we've extended an invitation to Andy W to take his place in the hot seat is simply because he falls into that enviable category of ex-teachers who have gone on to do something far more lucrative, and dare I say more enjoyable. If you ever fancy zipping around Bangkok behind the wheel of your very own jam jar, Andy's yer man. Drum roll for Andy W - the extremely tall gentleman behind Expat Motors.
Andy, can I refer to you as an ex- Bangkok teacher? I mean you did actually walk into a classroom a few times?
I taught for 3-4 years at places including King’s College Bang-Na, which I quite enjoyed, I worked at another Bangkok school on some questionable outside contracts, and a few other fly by night operations. I was always racking my brains though trying to find an angle to get out of it. I'm Glad that’s all behind me, but you never know when you may end up in the classroom again.
You did a stint in Hong Kong as well. How did that go?
I was burnt out in Thailand so I sold up and tried to seek my fortune over there. Things didn’t work out because I’m something of an uneducated idiot, and ended up working 10 hours a day for $100HK (500 Baht) an hour in a teaching sweatshop to get enough wedge to come back to Thailand. HK is a great place if you’re making the money, but a nightmare if you’re skint.
Enough of this teaching lark. You're the driving force behind Expat Motors. How does it work?
Basically we act the same way as a property broker does - but for cars. I don’t want to give too much away though. The most important thing is we check for dodgy paperwork, and ensure that any vehicles have not been wrapped around a lamp post at some time in the past. The beauty of this business is that I only have to work 2-3 days per week, which suits me fine.
Presumably you make a little bit more money out of this than you did out of teaching?
I came back from HK just over a year ago with about 50,000 Baht. Now I’ve got 2 reasonable cars - one for me, and one for the missus (so she’ll leave me alone), a nice (rented) apartment with all the mod cons. My daughter goes to a decent bilingual school, and we’ve a few bob in the bank for a couple of beers. So I guess I’m doing OK.
Why would an ex-pat come to you for a car instead of going straight to a Thai dealer?
The people we deal with are usually fresh off the boat on the Expat package. They don’t know how much to pay, what makes and models of car to go for, or any of the registration procedures. So we make everything nice, and easy for them - a service which they are happy to pay for. Another angle is that ex-pats can’t communicate with your average Thai used car dealer, and also they don’t trust them (however the ones I know have some decent motors). We only deal in used cars, if people want a new vehicle, they just go to a main dealer and pay the list price on the car.
Have you ever turned the clock back on one of your motors or stuffed the sills with wet Bangkok Posts?
Errr... no but, I’ve seen a few that have.
How many teachers have ever been in the position to buy a car off you?
I’ve done quite a bit of business with the international school crowd, Bangkok Pattana and ISB to name a few. I’ve sold a few motors to the odd ESL teacher, but not that often. I get quite a few emails from ESL teachers who only have a budget of 50-100,000 Baht, but it’s not worth the hassle as it would ultimately be a car they’d be unhappy with, and it would reflect badly on us so in the long run - it’s bad for business.
Do you ever drive past a teacher who's probably standing at a bus-stop waiting for the next non-aircon, and think "that used to me"?
All the time. I usually have a chuckle, but I could be back there one day.
You've muscled in on what many would see as Thai territory. How do the Thais themselves take to you?
All the Thais I deal with are making money because I’m selling their cars to people they don’t have access to so no problems. We only sell to “farangs” so there’s no hard feelings, or feelings of competition. My secretary deals with all the Thai side of things which makes life a lot easier.
Is there a Thai language equivalent of "one careful owner, the rest were bastards"?
Jow khong poo ying kon diow, chai rot by Bhaot took wan atit yang diow.(One lady owner, only used the car to go to church on Sundays.)
Let's say I've got 300,000 Baht to spend and I'm sick of getting on and off Microbuses. What can you do for me?
I always push the Japanese cars because they go forever, and I never have any complaints. For around 300,000 Baht I’d recommend a 98/99 Toyota Soluna, auto gearbox, 1.5L. It's a boring car but will go forever if you maintain it, and will be easy to sell, and hold it’s value even after 2-3 years. You could also get a decent pick-up truck, but they're no fun to drive in Bangkok.
The fact that if the business goes tits up, you can always fall back on the teaching must be a great comfort to you?
I view teaching as being on a par with claiming the dole in the UK - it’s a bastard if you have to go back to it, but it’s always there.
We're thinking of re-starting the ajarn teachers nights at the Londoner. Any chance we can coax you down to join in discussions on the effective way to do role-plays and aspects of classroom management?
Any excuse to get out for a few beers.