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Smart Repairs plans nationwide network

Bristol-based Smart Repairs UK plans to set up a national network after it was taken over by a rapidly expanding investment group, Clifton Group Holdings.

The firm - a £1m turnover business, which employs 50 staff - will continue to be run by managing director and former Scuffs man Trevor Merrett, who founded the operation in 1995. It specialises in competitively priced and quick vehicle services for car dealers and private buyers.

About to be re-branded Smart Autocentres, the business has linked up with the Bristol Ikea store to offer customers car valeting and a free smart repair inspection. In the first month it cleaned 1500 cars and is talking to the Swedish firm about signing a similar deal at its new Cardiff superstore as well as negotiating with other major retailers.

The group remains tight-lipped about its future expansion but told AM it has plans to acquire another aftermarket-based business as well as rolling out up to four regional Smart Autocentres, each employing 75 people, across the UK over the next 18 months. The acquisition marks the creation of the Clifton Group's new automotive division, headed by industry figure Roger Stangroom.

He set up Parkway Honda and was previously worldwide marketing director for Rover as well as Peugeot corporate sales director. Stangroom wants the firm to be the Kwik-Fit of the vehicle repair market.

“We are looking to develop the Bristol operation in the areas of vehicle servicing and fleet management, ahead of rolling out a network of Smart Autocentres,” he says. “We want to be the antidote to the traditional dealer bodyshop.”

The news comes following the demise of Bristol-based smart repair firm Scuffs, which had similar aspirations to create a national network, but was forced to call in receivers Baker Tilly at the end of 2001.

Clifton Group Holdings has a turnover of about £14m over two divisions, one specialising in building and maintenance and the other in financial advice. It plans to acquire more businesses and projects turnover will hit £18m.

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