The success of CATS Motors in selling to upscale customers stems directly from its founder Felix Ang’s over 30 years of learning how to serve them.
As an 18-year-old, he co-founded and manned with his brother Tony a small car-accessories shop that sold and installed everything from side mirrors and car mats to car radios and air-conditioners.
That’s because three decades ago, when Japanese cars started rolling out to compete with American models, all production cars had the mere basics: a car body, an engine, four wheels, and a sturdy chassis. Also, the brothers’ shop was at an ideal location: near the rich residents of the sprawling Makati villages. So even then, the car owners there went to the Angs and, in all likelihood, told them to “pimp my ride.”
Says Felix’s good friend and business partner, Greg T. Yu, CATS Motors chairman: “It was a very convenient place to ‘dress up’ cars instead of taking them to Banawe (in Quezon City). That was the trend.” “We were a small trading company started by my brother, and I apprenticed in his car shop at 15,” adds Felix, who’s now 50. “But car accessories became a passion (of car owners) in the mid-to-late ‘70s, so my brother started importing parts and accessories” to meet the growing demand.
Then in 1983, the Angs became concessionaires at SM ACA (Appliances and Car Accessories), and soon became the major supplier of car accessories to the burgeoning mall operator. Felix himself ran their concession at the iconic Vito Cruz (Manila) branch of SM ACA, again catering to the same Makati upscale market.
“These were all the same people looking for luxurious, fashionable additions to their cars,” he says. “This was the first time we entered this particular segment, providing everything from sound systems to three-piece wheels and performance kits.”
But just as the car accessories market was booming, Ang had to change course. In 1987, the Ayala Group of Companies decided to redevelop the land in Makati where SM ACA stood into what is now the Ayala Center, thus forcing SM to close its car accessories business—and ending the brothers’ concession after just four years.