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Circular by nature – The Monaghan man driving the used car parts market to a greener future

With REvolve, Richard Brennan is tapping into his family’s automotive know-how to launch the Amazon of eco-friendly car parts. He talks about inspiration and swapping the garage for a seat at the corporate table.


Circular by nature - The Monaghan man driving the used car parts market to a greener future p
Richard Brennan

ack in his student days in the early 2000s, pursuing a business marketing degree at Ulster University, Richard Brennan’s mind was a million miles away from the family’s body repair workshop on the outskirts of Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

A suit and tie and a seat at the corporate table was the goal. Long days in a greasy boiler suit stripping parts from the undercarriage of a family hatchback were not on the horizon. But, as is often the way, the pull of the family business is a powerful thing.

Coming back into the family fray with his father, Ted, soon after getting his qualification proved the second-best business decision he has made. Working on the business side of the garage, he forged the experience, connections and know-how needed that led him to arguably his best and most innovative business move to date with REvolve.

Launched last May, the company has carved out a niche in the market, creating a custom-built streamlined online platform linking up vehicle recycling and salvage shop partners with clients in car rental, insurance, repair and fleet management to offer greener car parts.

Through the subscription-based platform, a client can upload a listing of the parts they need for a regional or national fleet. “REvolve then connects the part numbers from the estimate, and it sees the part numbers of what we have in terms of availability,” Brennan says. The company already has stock in the country that is readily available.

“It is like Amazon,” he says, with over two million parts stored and graded in two warehouses in Monaghan and Dublin. Importantly, the parts are also carbon labelled, and REvolve’s system outlines the carbon savings for clients if they go with the salvaged parts instead of new parts. These are all independently audited and verified to ensure transparency, Brennan says.

“We hope that in the long-term, green parts will become the standard option for vehicle repair. Carbon labelling in Ireland is the next step in raising awareness that green parts can reduce repair costs and are better for the environment.”

Circular by nature - The Monaghan man driving the used car parts market to a greener future p twoREvolve’s system also reduces vehicle downtime and costs. Green parts are generally cheaper and readily available from the warehouses in-country in a matter of days. This is important for players in the insurance game, Brennan says, who “want to squeeze” the key-to-key time – the time from vehicle drop off to pick-up – to keep customers happy and ensure lower claims costs by saving on courtesy car rental costs.

Strong start to the business

Even with the brightest of ideas in the bag, many up-and-coming companies can struggle to attract a client base in the early days. This is not an issue REvolve has faced.

The venture is leaning heavily on Brennan’s experience leading the family repair, recovery and salvage business and his 13 years as managing director of Ted4Parts, the online arm of the Ted Brennan Motors Group that sells parts and is key to the REvolve network.

Coming out of an insurance-approved body shop, Brennan has landed contracts with insurance companies in its first year. Brennan says that the business is also about to go live with one of the country’s leading insurance companies, which, he says, “will be a game changer”.

REvolve already has one important client in the bag through previous work in the salvage trade – An Garda Síochána. It is a big fish to land for the burgeoning enterprise, but it’s also a smart move for the force. REvolve already has plenty of stock available in its two warehouses as Ted4Parts has recovered a lot of Garda vehicles for salvage over the years.

Not only does this ensure that parts are received swiftly, reducing repair turnarounds and putting service vehicles back on the road promptly. It also reduces the service’s potential carbon footprint. Last year, an estimated 38,000kg in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions were kept off its books by using over 550 reclaimed vehicle parts instead of new parts.

Going green is the right thing to do

Taking the extra step to get the parts carbon labelled was not just some add-on to the business model, Brennan says. It is part of his drive to accelerate the sector into the sustainability space and show how the industry he grew up in can be a force for good in the climate fight.

Leaving out the safety features of a vehicle, Brennan says that pretty much every part of a vehicle can be salvaged for reuse or upcycling. Take, for example, the foam from the back seats. “I am sending that across to another company who then use the foam to create seats for bars, restaurants and nightclubs,” Brennan says.

“Every part of the vehicle can be used again, and it’s a lot more beneficial to reuse the parts. If you can create a byproduct and create a circular loop and have the buy-in from the consumer, it is a lot more beneficial to everyone.”

By contrast, Brennan says, thousands of vehicles get written off every single year. “A lot of them could be saved through green parts, and the ones that can’t be saved can be used to save other vehicles.

“We have the solution now to keep parts in the loop for multiple useful lives. We’ve developed our system to capture and manage product, sustainability and lifecycle management data for each part,” Brennan says. “From an ethical point of view and a moral point of view, it’s the right way to go. Number one, more so than making a profit.”

Leaning into experience

Thinking circularly and sustainably is in the family DNA. Before establishing the repair and salvage business over four decades ago, his father, Ted, grew up on a farm where being sustainable and reusing anything and everything was the name of the game.

“Everything was created within the farm. And that is circular,” Brennan says. “It was in their DNA to be resourceful and then he went into the auto repair industry, reusing and repairing and creating resources.”

It instilled something in Brennan, who was “always looking at sustainability” and how businesses account for their carbon footprint since his business school days.

Now, REvolve comes after years of “looking at different companies that are best in class” to try and figure out the best way to take the trade into this space. Brennan spent a lot of time looking at what’s happening in Europe, delving into the business model of companies like SYNETIQ in the UK, Autocirc in Sweden and Indra in France, who are “really bringing a sustainable agenda” to the automotive sector.

“This isn’t just something we’ve thought of in the last year. We’ve been looking at this since 2015,” Brennan says. Holding Brennan back was the missing piece of the jigsaw – the “technology and the tech to drive it” and linking clients to the parts they needed in a smooth, timely and easy-to-follow manner.

Mackessy Technology turned out to be that missing piece. The Limerick company is a market leader in the online auctioning world, dealing with salvage parts within the vehicle insurance space. It created the custom REvolve OS platform at the centre of the operation, enabling clients to find and reserve green parts cleanly and crisply in near real-time.

The technological breakthrough and the subsequent decision to buckle up and take the circular economy journey couldn’t have come at a better time. The circular economy concept has been bandied around environmental circles for years. But now it is enjoying its moment in the sun with the green-tinged coalition government and in the corridors of Brussels.

In 2020, the European Commission adopted a circular economy action plan, one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal, refocusing the EU toward sustainable growth.

The government also launched a circular economy strategy in 2021, and the Circular Economy Act became law in 2022. The aim is to shift the current linear economic model to a more sustainable system that retains the value of materials for as long as possible.

The venture also arrives at a time when the manufacturing side of the automotive industry is starting to get serious about circularity as part of the shift to a net-zero economy.

Renault Group just became one of the biggest manufacturer movers in this space through the launch of The Future Is NEUTRAL enterprise last winter. It aims to drive resource neutrality in the industry, starting with battery reuse and recycling and plans to harness used car parts that can reenter the production chain as raw materials for new models.

“Dad would be proud”

Within this promising environment, Brennan sees an opportunity to grow with the right support. And the early success of the business is not going unnoticed. Oisin Smyth, the minister of state responsible for the circular economy, visited the warehouse in Castleblaney in September to check out the operation.

Getting the recognition and a seat at the table is not something that Brennan would have thought possible in his student days for a sector “seen as a low-level industry, one that’s under the radar in terms of the bigger picture”.

It is certainly a ways away from the early days of the family business started by his father, Ted, and the “old way of going down the back in a greasy boiler suit and picking out a part”.

His father was very much driven by the REvolve idea and heavily involved in trying to get it off the ground until a stroke in 2020 left him bedbound. But Brennan is sure that “he would be very proud” to see the company on its two feet and his son sitting down with people of authority and educating them about vehicle recycling.

“The business we’re in is circular by nature; it’s circular by default. It’s in the DNA of what the offering is,” Brennan says. “We are doing the right thing and making the industry something to be proud of that works in terms of circular transformation. I think that is something to be really proud of.”

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