Nick Lam, was only 20 when he moved to Auckland from Hong Kong.
As a struggling student at The University of Auckland, Lam worked part time in the cafeteria, as a 7-Eleven cashier and delivery boy to cover his college and living expenses. Little did he know that both dead end jobs would soon lead him to his fortune.
“To get a job as a delivery boy, I purchased my first car. It was a Hyundai. It was a very crappy old car and it cost me $1,300. I bought it from a small dealership. The car began having brake, engine and transmission problems. After half a year there were too many problems. I fixed it for $3,000 and sold it for $2,000.”
By 2011, friends and classmates began to ask Lam to help them pick out and buy cars. Lam explained that in the Chinese tradition, when someone does you a favor, you repay the generosity by taking them out to dinner.
“More and more students needed helps with buying cars. By 2011, too many customers and friends were asking — and I thought this should be a business. I told them instead of buying me food, give me $300 for the car service. My company started the moment I started collecting money from clients.”
He started getting two to three clients per week. As his clientele grew, Lam brought on his first partner to help manage the business and in 2012, with no outside funding, he started his own dealership and hired his classmates and friends from Hong Kong.
Lam’s business initially acted as the middle-man between the client and the dealerships. They would help translate and negotiate on behalf of the clients to get the best deals as well as to inspect the cars to make sure they were in good shape. As business grew, Auto Depot evolved into a full-fledged dealership offering a wide range of cars.
Eventually a cycle started — students would buy a car from Lam, but when they had to go back to after graduating, they would go back to Lam to resell their car.
Today, Lam’s venture has grown from two people to 8 full-time employees and over 50 volunteers. He says that he sells more than 400 cars a year at an average price of $30,000. Luxury cars in the $100,000 range and above account for 20% of his sales. One of the most expensive cars he’s ever sold was a Lamborghini Huracan, which retails at roughly $200,000.
In just the 2012 – 2013 school year alone, international students in Canada purchased just under $15.5 billion worth of new and used cars, according to BBC.
In most countries, luxury cars can have markups as high as 250%, so when rich kids come to Australia, they’re eager to take advantage of the great deals — if they have the cash on hand. Lam says almost all of his clients pay for their supercars in cash.
As long as I help them save money, they’re going to choose me as a service.”
So far, Lam has done pretty well for himself — he’s been the proud owner of a BMW M3, a Porsche 911 and an Audi R8, which became his dream car after he saw the 2004 film “I, Robot”. He currently drives a Mercedes SLS.