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Insight: Wicliffe survives Rover loss to build for future
9 May 2006

A year ago, Wicliffe’s future looked decidedly shaky. An MG Rover specialist with dealerships in Gloucester and Stroud, like many of its peers the company was stunned when the carmaker collapsed.

It lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in unpaid bonuses, discounted stock and reduced servicing rates and, more importantly, was suddenly competing with other retailers looking to refranchise.

There was little warning from the field teams of the impending disaster. “MG Rover staff were still offering us cars the day before they closed – they were even requesting showroom improvements two days beforehand,” says Wicliffe managing director Ben Rambaut.

When the end came, MG Rover dealers were on their own, potentially facing a major backlash from customers. Wicliffe reacted instantly. “We offered our customers an aftersales package that would give them comfort, which included 60% discount on labour rates for servicing. It was a difficult situation, but in the end we had customers coming into our showrooms to check we were going to be alright!” says Rambaut.

He joined the family-owned business in February 2004, initially in a part-time role, with a brief to put it on a sound financial footing. Owner and chairman John Fincher is candid in his self-appraisal: “I felt Ben could add a lot to the company by managing the business better than I could and controlling the team. I was an enthusiastic amateur, and he brought a degree of professionalism that we hadn’t had before.”

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I have used Wicliffe for over 40 years. Indeed, I clearly remember their old location in Worcester Street near the centre of Gloucester opposite the main Ford dealership when I was a small boy in the 1950s. Up until at least the 1970s, there were two other dealerships selling BMC and Standard-Triumph cars. St. Aldates Garage and Westgate Motor House - the latter having a new V12 Jaguar E-type slowly rotating on the centrepeice turntable unsold at the time of the fuel crisis in the early 1970s... about the time the MGBGT V8 was introduced... talk about unlucky timing.

Bought most of my new MGs and Rovers from Wicliffe as have some of my relatives. Not forgetting countless spares over the years. IIRC, they now have the Fiat, Renault, Nissan and Hyundai Franchises and the site has seen much change recently to accomodate those marques.

It was and still is a family business. I wish them luck for the future.
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