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Arnold Clark strengthens Ford link with Patterson

Arnold Clark, Scotland’s dominant motor retailer, has made its biggest advance into England with the acquisition of the £250 million Patterson Motor Group.

Eddie Hawthorne, Arnold Clark managing director, said he was not actively seeking takeovers anywhere.

“We wait for the right business opportunities to arise, and Patterson fits with our expansion plans,” he says.

Hawthorne would not disclose the price: “We paid the current market value that was acceptable to Patterson’s shareholders.”

Arnold Clark’s turnover was £1.873bn in June’s AM100, so now tops £2bn.

The first contact between Arnold Clark and Patterson was a month prior to completion of the deal, but Hawthorne would not say how that came about.

“Patterson Motor Group is a well run family business with the same ethics as Arnold Clark,” he said.

It is also relatively close to the border, with two Ford dealerships in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Newcastle Ford has, on the same site, a Seat outlet, which makes Arnold Clark’s fourth with the brand. A third Patterson Ford dealership is at Hexham, 10 miles west of the city.

An industry consultant told AM: “Integration and management is made easier by the geographical compactness of a business that sold around 15,000 new cars and commercial vehicles in 2006.”

Patterson has been a key fleet retailer for Ford, and its contract hire division will be incorporated into Arnold Clark Finance. The group has held the Ford franchise since 1926 but the name will disappear in January when the dealerships are rebranded as Arnold Clark.

The industry consultant was sceptical about Arnold Clark’s ability to make an impact in England. “Success in Scotland has been gained by its reputation to do a good deal for Scots,” he said. “That is difficult to transfer into England.

“But if Hawthorne is serious about gaining market share south of the border, he needs to make significant acquisitions such as this.”

An Arnold Clark Motorstore in north-east England is a possibility, but Hawthorne would say only: “We are always looking for opportunities to expand our used car business”.

Hawthorne sees Patterson as a good fit: “With 11 Ford outlets, Arnold Clark had a good working relationship with the manufacturer.”

Arnold Clark recently bought Dundee Ford from Pendragon, and acquired an independent Fiat dealership in Glenrothes.

Ashley Winter, chairman and managing director of Patterson since 1988, and finance director Cliff Thornton are staying with the business for a few months to aid the transition. But sales director David White has joined Arnold Clark.

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