Volkswagen: "Garage Felix" opened 70 years ago
OREANDA-NEWS. In April 1946, a small garage opened its doors in Tel Aviv for the first time. Cars frequently had to be repaired on the pavement in front of the house because the garage was simply too small for all of the vehicles. This formed the nucleus of what would become an extremely successful Volkswagen dealership in Israel, "Garage Felix", a company that bears the first name of its founder, Felix Burian, still today.
When Felix Burian and his parents fled to Palestine in 1938 to escape the persecution of the National Socialists in Austria, nobody had the slightest idea he would become "Mr Volkswagen" one day. The Jewish family from Vienna found itself in an unfamiliar position. Felix, who was approaching his 14th birthday, took the pragmatic decision to become a mechanic. He worked in a series of garages, all of which were run by immigrants from Germany, and learned his trade. By the time he and a business partner opened their own business in 1946, he had already gained a tremendous amount of experience.
The garage operated by Burian and his partner Cornfeld boomed. Their customers really appreciated the professional service. This is also what caught the eye of representatives of Volkswagenwerk GmbH in 1959 when they set off on a search for partner companies in a country where not even 50,000 cars were travelling the roads and highways. At the time, Israel was considered a market of the future in spite of its serious economic and political problems. Volkswagen was also highly regarded in Israel, a fact demonstrated by the continuously rising numbers of imported private cars. Many garages also wanted to become Volkswagen garages.
In 1960, Burian's garage was one of five planned operations across the country: two in Tel Aviv, two in Haifa and one in Jerusalem. The dealership agreement helped the company obtain special tools and bigger discounts for the purchase of new cars as a way of raising interest in the business of selling new vehicles. As was always the case when Volkswagen set out to win over the hearts of people and to generate rising sales figures in a new market, consultants have worked at the sides of dealers to help address issues ranging from the dealer's image to customer service.
Then general importer Mordechai Auerbach, who imported Volkswagens from Belgium, ran into business difficulties. As a result of his limited liquidity, cars for which customers had already paid could not be released from customs to the importer. In this situation, the dealers had to reach into their own pockets to save themselves. "And I paid for the vehicles once again," Burian said. "They were my customers after all, and they would have disappeared." Burian borrowed money to release vehicles and replacement parts from Auerbach's warehouse that had been pledged to creditors. Trust in the bankrupt, leaderless general importer was shaken. As a result, Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft brought in a new general importer in 1965. Aaron Guthwirt and his Champion Motors (Israel) Ltd. were selected, a company that was well known in Wolfsburg as a result of its role as general importer in Malaysia and Singapore.