MAHA Ireland turns 25: John & Eoin Mallon take centre stage

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When MAHA Ireland crops up, the name John Mallon usually follows. For over two decades, he steered the ship of the company, transforming it from a fledging enterprise into a prominent player in the industry. Now retired it’s down to his son, Eoin, to continue the journey but also make his own mark in the company and industry.

The story begins in 1998 when John initiated MAHA Ireland. Today, it is one of the most important manufacturers of automotive testing and lifting equipment. Currently, MAHA Ireland remains solely responsible for providing more than 100 car test lanes to just shy of 50 National Car Testing Service (NCT) centres and 190 commercial test lanes for Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Testing (CVRT) – that’s a market share of 70%!

MAHA Ireland is also the sole supplier to Driver Vehicle Testing Agency (DVA) centres in Northern Ireland and employs 23 staff, including 13 mobile service engineers, all dotted around the Republic and Northern Ireland.

But to understand this milestone, one must delve into the years leading up to it: “Ten years before the official founding of the company, I was already working for the Irish representatives of MAHA, a company known for its automotive testing equipment. At that time, MAHA had yet to establish a direct presence in Ireland, relying on representatives to showcase it products.”

He saw an opportunity in the impending introduction of car testing in Ireland and proposed the formation of MAHA Ireland as a direct subsidiary of the parent company. Much to his surprise, MAHA agreed without hesitation! “The company was born; this move not only solidified MAHA’s presence in Ireland but also marked the beginning of a journey that would significantly impact the automotive industry.”

The early days of MAHA Ireland, however, were marked by challenges – or “growing pains” as John called them. The transition from a one-man operation, with John working from home and even his car, to a fully-fledged company with an expanding customer base was a formidable task.

He said: “There was a need to secure agreements, navigate negotiations, and build relationships within the industry. This placed considerable demands on my shoulders, which meant I needed to employ people – but the right people. That was vital for our growth.”

The introduction of ISO 17025 accreditation in 2011 became a pivotal moment: “Probably my proudest moment,” he admitted. That and the construction of the purpose-built facility in Rathcoole, opened in 2015.

He continued: “Achieving this accreditation meant that MAHA Ireland was recognised as a calibration laboratory with impeccable standards, setting it apart as a leader in the industry. This accomplishment was a source of immense pride for us all.”

As MAHA Ireland solidified its position in the sector, securing contracts with NCT, CVRT and DVA, it also installed equipment in workshops, government and council buildings, colleges. This diversification has allowed MAHA Ireland to flourish.

John was always keen to stay humble, though, as he explained: “While the company’s growth was impressive, I always keen on maintaining a manageable size to ensure quality and customer satisfaction. Our commitment to excellence, combined with a dedicated team, allowed us to offer outstanding customer service. We had a customer-centric approach.”

For John, the journey was not without its trials, but he steered the evolving landscape of the automotive industry with grace and determination. From pioneering vehicle testing solutions to obtaining ISO 17025 accreditation and diversifying the company’ offerings – putting MAHA Ireland on the map – he felt ready to hand over the baton; however, he left behind a legacy that has shaped the automotive industry in Ireland forever.

Holding onto that baton now is John’s son, Eoin. He was announced as the new managing director in 2019, looking to maintain the monumental efforts and achievements earned during the past 20-plus years.

When the moment came, Eoin decided to keep things simple: “While some might have expected a significant shift in leadership, I decided that the transition would be smooth, and little would change – seismic adjustments weren’t needed!

“I had been preparing for this role for years, gradually learning from John. I wanted to adhere to the leadership style that had been the trademark of John’s philosophy: customer and staff first.”

Eoin’s stance and course of maintaining MAHA Ireland’s strong customer relationships and prioritising staff satisfaction ensured the company’s continued success, remaining profitable, and honouring existing contracts.

The biggest challenge of Eoin’s tenure so far, undoubtedly, was the way to handle the COVID-19 pandemic: “There was no playbook for it,” admitted Eoin. “It was a case of working with staff but also showing strong leadership. The staff needed to know that they would be kept safe and paid – we were able to achieve both with the protocols installed and decisions made.”

Eoin noted that while challenges were daunting, they provided valuable experience. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Eoin’s vision for the company is built on a strong foundation of retaining existing customer relationships and expanding business. With contracts secured well into the 2030s and new equipment guidelines on the horizon, MAHA Ireland’s future looks bright.