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Harratts apprentice claims top Honda UK award

An apprentice at Harratts has been crowned the UK’s top apprentice across the entire Honda UK workforce.

Jonathan Wolfenden, who is based at the Harratts Honda Wakefield, gained the accolade at the manufacturer’s apprenticeship awards and graduation held last week.

Wolfenden beat off stiff competition from the other 180 Honda UK apprentices, scooping the award which was judged by a panel from Honda’s apprenticeship Team.

The accolade follows rigorous assessments at in Wakefield and also during Wolfenden’s attendance at the manufacturer’s training days at the Honda Institute in Colnbrook.

The company, which boasts 12 dealerships across Yorkshire, is -known for its commitment to investing in staff and this latest award follows Harratts Volvo apprentices winning the top accolade in 2010.

Gareth Bottomley, dealer principal of Harratts Honda Wakefield, said: "We are thrilled to have trained the best Honda apprentice in the UK and Jonathan is a worthy recipient of this award.

"His dedication and skill is a real asset for us as a business and he is a fantastic role model for those wishing to set out on a career in the automotive sector. I am justifiably very proud of him."

Jonathan Wolfenden, apprentice at Harratts Honda Wakefield, said: "To be awarded Honda’s Apprentice of the Year is fantastic news and it’s still sinking in.

"I’d like to thank Harratts for providing a fantastic place to work and for my mentors who have, and continue to, invest so much in me."

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Harratts Group

The Harratts Group is a family-owned and run business with 10 dealerships across Yorkshire, with the franchises for Honda, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault and Kia, plus its most recent venture, Part Exchange Direct and its Car Clinic. It sells used cars and to fleets.

The Harratt family started the company in 1966 in Ossett, acquiring land and businesses and building showrooms as it took on franchises, beginning with Volvo.

Its most recent additions are Honda in 2009, which was placed alongside Volvo at its Barnsley Road site in Wakefield, and Peugeot in 2010 in Leeds. A Nissan/Volvo site was sold to Vertu in 2014.

Recently all senior staff have been put through a self-development programme and customer-facing staff and all involved in sales have been through a customer service training programme.

In March 2013 Andrew Venn was appointed head of operations. The former Pendragon franchise director has 25 years industry experience. His role was put as evolving the organisation from a "thriving family business to a class leading motor retailer".

However, in 2014 the group announced it was in a turnaround period after years of negative performance. It has suffered a four-year fall in profit before tax from a high in 2009 of £1.9m to loss of more than £3m in 2013. Turnover over has dropped since 2010 when it was at £181m to £143m last year. Gearing is at 80%, return on capital employed -7.8% and return on sale -2.12%.

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Honda has had a difficult few years and sales stumbled in 2014 with a fall of nearly 4% in a market where many rivals were recording double-digit growth.

Leon Brannan, head of cars in the UK, has said that 2015 will be the first year that sees the impact of renewed R&D investment for Europe.

He has revealed that the goal is to restore the Honda franchise to its former strength – “to fall back in love with ourselves” – with six new models including the new HR-V, the Civic Type-R and the NSX supercar due in 2015.

There is also a determination to "catch up the rest of the market" by migrating the business towards a PCP culture and away from HP and cash purchases, while building demand for long-term service plans to maximise customer retention, part of a plan to become the number one brand in the UK for customer loyalty.

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