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Hodgson goes ahead with its Autopod tower concept

Family-owned Hodgson Newcastle has delayed its plans to launch a new space-saving Autopod business due to the effects of the recession.

However, managing director Steve Hodgson has not lost his enthusiasm for the project, which is now back on track.

The plan had originally been to start building a demonstration tower at Hodgson’s Toyota Metro Centre dealership in Gateshead by November, but Hodgson did not want to disrupt operations by pulling apart the site.

Hodgson told AM: “It’s been all hands to the pump during the hard times and we haven’t had to make any redundancies as a result.”

Autopod is a joint venture between Hodgson Newcastle and Whelan Construction that installs car storage towers allowing staff to stack demonstrators in pods on top of each other on dealer premises.

Hodsgon said: “It’s got to a point where there are a lot of manufacturer demo requirements for brands and there simply isn’t the room to put them anywhere.

"If the demos were housed in the towers, they would only have to be cleaned once and they would be prominently displayed.

“Another bonus would be that sales executives wouldn’t be treating demonstrators as their personal toys.”

Mazda has agreed with Hodgson to go ahead with an eight-storey tower with space for 32 vehicles at its Gateshead site now planning permission has been given.

Hodgson said: “I’ve been with Mazda for 22 years and the new management that have come in has been an absolute breath of fresh air.

“They’ve been very understanding and have a commonsense approach.”

It’s intended that the building work will be finished by January.

Plans have also been drawn up to build a tower at its other site at Silverlink shopping park but the dealer group is waiting on confirmation for planning permission and discussions with its other manufacturer partners.

Hodgson said: “The only way to bring this to market is to build a model that works. We’ve had a lot of interest from retailers that have outgrown their facilities due to a massive capacity issue.

"We’re talking to manufacturers too, but the final decision is likely to come out of Europe. 

“We’ll also be taking it to independents when we’re ready. It could be something that will take off or something that people will be afraid of.”

Hodgson believes hospitals and the 2012 London Olympics would also benefit from the space saving technology. 

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