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Cowie makes surprise return to car retailing

Sir Tom Cowie has made a surprise return to the motor industry at the age of 80 with Gainmanor Fiat in Tyneside.
Managing director Martin Johnson, sales director David Banks and aftersales director John Munro are running the business on a day-to-day basis. All three have many years motor trade experience. Non-executive chairman is John Anderson CBE, the former owner of Mill Garages prior to its acquisition by European Motor Holdings.

Johnson told AM: “We were in negotiations with Fiat to open a dealership on North Tyneside, and were introduced to Sir Tom through a mutual colleague. He was keen to get involved, and matched our funding via his Sir Tom Cowie Holdings operation."

The dealership actually started trading in August last year, from a temporary showroom which Fiat provided alongside what is now a new purpose-built Fiat dealership on the Silver Link in Wallsend, where most major manufacturers are already represented.

The new site opened for business on March 1 this year, and is one of the first in the country to implement Fiat's new corporate identity. Until Gainmanor took on the franchise, there had been no Fiat representation in the area for around 18 months.

The dealership has an eight-car showroom, six-bay workshop and space for around 120 used cars outside. It aims to sell 500 cars a year. “Before the new dealership opened we had a temporary workshop facility off-site which we have retained and we are specialising in van servicing and taxis there,” says Johnson. Total investment in the franchise is around £2m.

Cowie built the Tom Cowie retail group into a £500m turnover, AM100 top 10 business, before selling it 10 years ago. It was later renamed Arriva before being split up and sold off last year.



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