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Expansion for John Banks Group

John Banks Motor Group in Suffolk has added a Mitsubishi franchise to its Honda and Suzuki dealership in Bury St Edmunds.

The addition marks the latest stage in a period of steady growth at the £40m turnover, family-owned business.

From its original solus Honda representation in Bury St Edmunds, John Banks added Suzuki in 1997, acquired another Honda dealership in Ipswich in 1998 and added Suzuki to that site in 2001.

Last year it opened a Used Car Direct Centre in Bury St Edmunds, dedicated to selling the group’s part exchanges.

Mark Banks, managing director and son of chairman John Banks, who founded the business 30 years ago, says Mitsubishi fits well with the group’s portfolio.

“With its range providing the large 4x4s and pick-ups we have something on site for everybody now. We’re already finding that customers spend longer here because there’s more choice,” he adds.

The Mitsubishi showroom has been created in a 157sq m extended former valeting bay at a cost of almost £375,000. Another two service bays have been added to the joint workshop.

Mitsubishi had been absent from the town for several years, so the group is undertaking radio and local newspaper marketing to announce its return. This is backed by direct mailing by Mitsubishi. “We’re not expecting big, big volumes,” says Banks. “We want to sell on quality rather than quantity. We’ll probably do a few hundred units new and something similar used.”

His target is for the three franchises at Bury to achieve at least 1,000 new and 1,000 used car sales combined a year.

Other parts of the group are also enjoying growth. At Ipswich, the Honda franchise has built up its corporate operation and is set to achieve 1,000 units next year, five times the number it was achieving when the group bought it.

And the group is currently piloting a centralized service reception. This is already active at the Bury St Edmunds site, and will roll out to Ipswich before the end of the year.

Banks says: “It’s being one step ahead of the game that counts. And we’re trying to cut our overheads by trying something different.”

He remains coy about the group’s next expansion. But he adds: “Our policy is that we’ll only ever sell Japanese cars. They’re reliable, good quality products and our customers love them.”

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