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Virgin takes 53% of Motor Solutions

Sir Richard Branson has exercised an option to double his shareholding in Motor Solutions, headed by Derek Cook, just nine months after selling his Virgin Cars business to the car sales operation. Branson, who had a 25% stake in the business, paid “several million pounds” for the 53% controlling shareholding.

At the launch of Virgin Cars in 2000, Branson predicted the business would become Britain’s No1 car retailer and his renewed interest indicates continued determination to succeed. A second dealership is due to open in Sheffield early next year, joining the site in Manchester.

This week, BBC1’s Watchdog reported that about 80 people have complained this year about delayed deliveries from Virgin Cars of volume models such as the Toyota Yaris and Vauxhall Corsa. Similar protests have dogged Virgin Cars from the start.

Tony Willard, AM industry editor, told Watchdog he was surprised by the high level of complaints because Motor Solutions has a far larger stock than the original Virgin Cars.

Cook says: “Virgin is so delighted with how we increased sales they wanted a bigger shareholding in our family business, and paid several million pounds for it. It’s a good deal for us, because the Cook family retains full management control.

“We have money in the bank, rather than an overdraft, and are selling 2,000 cars a month. We get only a tiny number of complaints about delays and these are caused by manufacturers or dealers letting us down on supply.”

Virgin Cars failed as an internet/call centre-only operation and opened its first dealership at Salford 18 months ago. After Sheffield, where the development awaits planning permission, Cook plans two dealerships a year until there is a network of 12.

“We want to be in all major conurbations, including somewhere near the M25, in the Midlands, Nottingham and Leeds.”

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