Steer Automotive attracts European investor as Keyhaven exits

Private equity firm Keyhaven Capital Partners has agreed to sell its equity stake in independent collision repair group Steer Automotive to pan-European private equity investor Oakley Capital.

The bodyshop group’s founder Richard Steer and the current management team will continue to lead the business and are reinvesting alongside Oakley. As part of the transaction, Oakley will acquire the shares held by Keyhaven Capital Partners and Chiltern Capital.

Since Capital’s and Keyhaven’s investments in 2021, Steer completed 18 acquisitions to create a network of over 100 repair centres across the country. The group has expanded from its core passenger car repair market into luxury car repair, commercial vehicle repair and technical services.

Steer has also increased its number of manufacturer accreditations to 43 including brands such as Porsche, Rolls Royce, Bentley, McLaren, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, JLR, Tesla, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen Group, Stellantis and Ford.

Steer has invested significantly in its operational infrastructure and management team which has improved its operational efficiency, while also introducing data and analytics tools to enhance KPI monitoring.

In 2023, Steer was ranked within the top 40 in The Sunday Times’ list of 100 fastest-growing UK businesses and recognised by The Independent as one of the top 100 job creators in the country.

Steer now represents approximately 5% of the UK collision repair market, employing over 2,300 people and repairing more than 115,000 vehicles a year. The company also launched the Steer Academy to diversify recruitment channels, train and upskill the next generation of technicians.

Richard Steer, founder and chief executive of Steer Automotive, said: “Over recent years we have built Steer into the UK’s leading automotive repair business, with major investments in the talent, technology, and systems required to serve the automotive industry as it undergoes huge change. Both Chiltern and Keyhaven have been great supporters of our business and have been instrumental in delivering the growth we have achieved to date.

“We are delighted to have now secured a partnership with Oakley Capital to fuel the next phase of our growth. Oakley are a great fit for our business and complement our experience, with a very strong track record helping fast growing businesses through both organic growth and M&A. We see potential to further grow our share of the automotive repair market by building a unique sector-leading proposition that’s well positioned to meet the evolving needs of our clients, sustaining our strong focus on customer care and service quality.

The agreement was signed in December with closing expected to take place in the second quarter of 2024.

Peter Dubens, founder and managing partner, Oakley Capital, said: “Our strategy has always been to invest behind exceptional founders with a clear strategic vision. We have been impressed by Richard and his team, and the way they have built Steer to serve the changing needs of the UK automotive industry. We look forward to working with the company as they deliver on their ambitious growth plans to scale Steer Group into a key service provider for this large, dynamic market.”

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