It may be a new name in the Mercedes-Benz dealer network but eStar, winner of What Van?’s Van Dealer of the Year Award for 2023, is already playing a starring role in the brand’s retail operation.

eStar was established in September 2020, taking over from a business that had failed, leaving a van department that was all but decimated. Following a rapid turnaround under the leadership of Roger Knight, head of vans, morale and confidence have been boosted. The team has been rebuilt, and the company has recruited three van talent development trainees to further bolster the support offered to customers. 

eStar is embracing the move over to electric vehicles. In December 2021, the company opened a new van dealership at Knowsley, making an investment of £3.2m in the site. The workshop fully supports the repair and maintenance of electric vehicles, and the six electric charge points newly installed can simultaneously charge up to 12 vans. These are in addition to the four points already present and eStar is planning to install a further 12 charge points this year. Further evidence of its commitment to being environmentally conscious is eStar’s plan to install photovoltaic panels to generate greener energy for the buildings. Last year also saw the business replace its fleet of diesel-powered parts vans with electric eVitos.

eStar has also installed three new smart chargers at its Trafford Park site, which is undergoing a makeover, and is now planning to equip its Deeside facility with smart chargers too. Another project is the redevelopment and modernisation of its dealership in Stoke.

Steve Bridge, eStar’s managing director, says: “We are passionate about supporting our customers’ transition into electric vans and making it as seamless as possible. All of our colleagues, from technicians through to head office-based teams have been put through high-voltage training to further understand the technology and how best to support customers and answer any questions or concerns they might have. 

“Since we formed in September 2020, our mission has always been to progress towards electric vans, so we’re well on the front foot with that. Our special relationship with expert companies such as EV3 Power and Element 2 means that we can support our customers with a holistic approach to electric vans, charging infrastructure, and power balancing support too.” 

The company’s enlightened approach extends beyond its commitment to electric vans. 

In March 2023 it launched a raft of new employee rewards and benefits, including what it claims is sector-leading maternity pay. 

This consists of three months of full pay and two months of half pay for employees who have been with the business for at least two years. The company is also offering two weeks of full paternity pay and a baby gift pack.

eStar hopes the scheme will help attract more women into the light commercial vehicle business. Other initiatives include improvements to annual leave allowance and sick pay and an extended bonus model.

“We’re incredibly proud to be in a position to be investing so much into the well-being of our team, especially during such a challenging period of time,” says Bridge. 

“We win as a team so re-investing our profits back into continually improving their experience at work ultimately benefits our customers, who will continue to receive the best possible care.”

Commenting on eStar’s success at the What Van? Awards, Bridge says: “It means a huge amount to have this independent recognition and to be recognised for all that we continue to do for the van community. 

“We told all of our customers via LinkedIn, our newsletter and have the logo in all of our email footers. Our plan is also to have the logo up on the wall in our head office reception so that our colleagues can be reminded each day – it’s certainly an award never to be forgotten.”