Crippling accident pushes auto repair shop owner to rise above the odds
Gustave Hoareau  and Cheyne Hoareau C&G Auto Tune in Durban

Eight years into opening his own auto repair shop, Cheyne Hoareau’s life took a dramatic turn. He was only 32 years old when a motorbike accident resulted in a serious spinal injury and broken neck. The accident nearly cost Cheyne his life, but this self-confessed natural born fighter pushed himself to the limits to rebuild his life and his business, C&G Auto Tune in Durban.

As we reach the end of National Disability Rights Awareness Month (3 November to 3 December), Cheyne, who has been a member of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) for 15 years, shares his inspiring journey to hopefully encourage others living with a disability to live life to the fullest and “make it happen!”

Cars and bikes were Cheyne’s passion from a young age - or as he puts it, “fast cars and fast bikes”.

“I grew up with an eagerness to learn about cars and motorbikes and knew I had an insane passion for speed and power. Eventually, I was able to feed this passion with every machine I owned. None of my vehicles or motorbikes escaped modification.

“I’ve owned many machines, from V8s to turbocharged six cylinders, modified four cylinders and even super cars, like my Nissan GTR.” By 2003 when Cheyne opened his business he was racing motorbikes competitively.  After he was involved in a serious motorbike accident in 2011, specialists told Cheyne he would be bedridden for the rest of his life.

“I’m a natural born fighter. I wasn’t going to accept that prognosis. Breaking your neck is a traumatic experience to go through; I can’t even put it into words.

“However, once you accept your fate for what it is, you can move forward and rebuild your life. My rehabilitation wasn’t easy and I’m incredibly proud that with determination and willpower I was able to prove those specialists wrong.” Ahead lay the rebuilding of C & G Auto Tune too.

“There was a lot to do after I returned to work to ensure the workshop was successful. I’m forever grateful to my father, Gustave, who stood by side and encouraged me all the way through this incredibly traumatic and emotional time in my life,” Cheyne says.

“Simple everyday tasks we all take for granted, like driving a car or getting ready for work, were massive challenges for me. My emotional and physical strength while being in a wheelchair for the first time in my life was the greatest challenge of all.

“My dad motivated me to be the best man that I could and inspired me with his wisdom and business integrity. He is still my rock in hard times; pushing me to follow my dreams and passion by taking it one day at a time.”

MIWA chairperson Dewald Ranft says this awareness month is a time for introspection on how we can advance the rights of persons with disabilities, and people like Cheyne are excellent role models.

He explains that MIWA, a proud affiliate of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), has taken significant steps towards inclusivity by initiating a job shadowing programme for students with disabilities.

“We recently opened up some of their accredited workshops to learners from a special needs school in the Eastern Cape. This initiative is not just about providing opportunities for these students; it’s about ensuring the longevity of our industry and addressing the skills shortage by igniting a love for our industry in our youth.

“Hopefully we will be able to partner with other schools in different regions as well and expand the programme so that any learner, regardless of their disability but who has a passion and love for the sector, can succeed.

“Inspirational stories such as Cheyne’s must be told as they play an important part of our awareness about opportunities in the sector,” Ranft says.

Cheyne’s passion now is repairing vehicles and keeping his customers satisfied by offering them the best advice and workmanship, and he is 100% involved in his workshop.

“I may not be able to do what I used to be able to do, but nothing gets past me at work - big or small!” he says. Although he still struggles to walk without support, Cheyne is able to drive a manual and automatic cars, bakkies and small trucks unassisted. C & G Auto Tune specialises in the German car market - servicing small trucks and bakkies, engine overhauling, etc. and performance upgrades.

Cheyne is supported by a team of 10 staff he personally handpicked, mentored and trained to ensure they carry out the best quality work. “We work by my motto of always put in 150% effort no matter what,” he says.

He believes aspiring entrepreneurs should possess the following qualities to succeed - good business ethics, reliability, integrity and honesty. “You have to honour your workmanship and strive to please regular customers so that you can attract new customers. Good housekeeping is also important, especially in our environment. First impressions last, so make sure yours is a good one,” Cheyne says.

“Also, keep your head strong, stay focused, don’t give up, do the best you can and remember that life isn’t over until you breathe your last breath – so, you need to make it happen.”