Vauxhall’s presence in Milton Keynes is changing, with the franchise transferring from Evans Halshaw to East Anglian-based group Thurlow Nunn.
The family-owned business is spending £5.5m on a new brand centre – Vauxhall’s 10th – on a five-acre greenfield site in the town’s Towergate area.
It will feature a 13-vehicle showroom, space for more than 90 used cars, plus another 152 for customer parking, 20 workshop bays, and two MoT bays for vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.
Thurlow Nunn has 10 other Vauxhall solus sites in Norfolk, Cambs and Suffolk, but this is seen as its most ambitious venture.
Chris Roberts, Vauxhall’s retail network development director, said: “We approached the group about taking over at Milton Keynes because of its performance. Every other acquisition has proved successful, including turnaround situations, and its professionalism is reflected by upper quartile CSI ratings across all sites. It’s also ranked second for CSI among major groups.”
Simon Bottomley, Thurlow Nunn’s managing director, said: “Strategically, we are pretty well saturated in East Anglia and although Milton Keynes is new territory for us and our name and reputation will not be familiar, we’re confident that our track record for customer car, allied to these new facilities, will ensure another successful partnership with Vauxhall which goes back over 30 years.”
Roberts described the termination of Evans Halshaw’s contract as “amicable” and stressed that Vauxhall remained on good terms with parent group Pendragon.
Though the existing contract has been extended until the end of September, it will be January before Thurlow Nunn begins trading from the new site.
In the interim, new car sales will be handled by surrounding Vauxhall outlets, including Northampton and Aylesbury.
For aftersales, Thurlow Nunn has taken a short-term lease on premises formerly owned by an authorised Vauxhall repairer.
The changeover will be advertised in a local newspaper and radio campaign, costing around £100,000, supported by electronic media – Facebook, mobile texting, etc – to existing customers.
According to Vauxhall’s database, there are nearly 18,000 owners of Vauxhalls up to 10 years old in the Milton Keynes area.
Established in 1875, the Thurlow Nunn Group embraces agricultural equipment, but motor retail accounts for around £90m of its £150m a year turnover and Bottomley expected this to rise to at least £110m within the next 12 months.
Over the same period, the new site is forecast to generate sales of 500 new retail, 650 used, 250 Motability and 100 fleet. Bottomley stressed that fleet would be up to 25 units per customer, dealing with smaller local businesses.
While acknowledging that a motor retail business dependent on only one brand was “not without risk”, Bottomley commented: “On an operational level, it offers uniformity of process. For a group of our size, holding several different franchises would dilute management time and effort.”