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All revved up for Kawasaki's pilot showroom

Boss Neil Jeffrey talks to newburytoday on the manufacturer-run dealership

Kawasaki Newbury

Staff at Kawasaki's Greenham showroom

The Interview:
Neil Jeffery, of Greenham Kawasaki, talks to Newbury Business Today’s SARAH BOSLEY

WHEN motorcycle manufacturer Kawasaki was looking for a location for its innovative new showroom, Newbury proved to be the perfect place.

Having enjoyed a successful launch weekend earlier this month, the new venture is going from strength to strength with Neil Jeffery at the helm.

Born in Lyndhurst, in the New Forrest, Neil moved to Southampton to begin a year’s mechanical engineering course after leaving school.

At the end of it, he beat off competition from nearly 200 other students to pick up the GW Martin Award for
Engineering.

After finishing his course, family circumstances saw him move to Yorkshire for a year, before he returned to
Southampton and took a job in sales.

“I was selling Kirby vacuum cleaners and I found I was quite good at it,” he says. “After about 18 months I was offered a job in used car sales, so I moved there and stayed for a few years.

“I worked my way up to a sales controller role there, but it was quite a cut-throat business back then and I didn’t like it.”

So he moved to a motorcycle dealership instead, having ridden all of his life, and hasn’t looked back since.

His next move saw him working at the Magic Group as sales manager in its Southampton showroom, selling Harley Davidsons.

When he was promoted to dealer principal he was the youngest Harley dealer principal in Europe.

“I then moved to Silverstone,” he explains. “The brief was to go up there and tidy it up a bit and prepare it to be sold.

“They had four dealerships but wanted to create three ‘palaces’.

“I was involved in the promotion and sale of the store and then put in charge of the new Megastore in Slough.”

After spending eight years with Harley Davidson, Neil took up a position with Pure Triumph.

“It was a company that specialised in buying businesses from administration,” Neil says.

“They had bought three but only wanted two, so I had to get the Birmingham branch in a position for sale.”

After leaving Triumph he went to work for a manufacturer, Piaggio and Vespa, as a retail sales manager.

From here he moved to a London sales role, which was the key region of five, increasing its market share considerably in his three years with them.

And from there he took on his current role as dealer principal at Greenham Kawasaki.

“Because of my experience of running dealerships and working for manufacturers I have been able to see both sides,” he says.

“We are a little bit unusual here as we are the only manufacturer-run dealership.

“We understand that we have an aging dealership population, so we are piloting this scheme, which will assist the existing dealership network and future-proof the brand.

“It is about growing the brand and making it more consistent.

“We want to deliver a consistent and enjoyable experience to the customers.”

The showroom, on Lindenmuth Way, Greenham Business Park, officially launched in March and has already enjoyed a very successful opening period.

“The first six weeks exceeded our expectations,” Neil explains. “We are in a completely new building and working to a new concept.

“In this building we can show people how they can set up a Kawasaki franchise too.

“It is nice to know ourselves what it takes to open a franchise, so we can now have a plan if someone comes in to invest from scratch.

“But this facility must stand on its own two feet too.

“It is not supported by the manufacturer, so we have other products too.

“It has to be a commercial business.”

Newbury was chosen as the prime location for the new venture because the company recognised that there was a large swathe of the south of England, from Oxford to Southampton, that had no Kawasaki franchise.

“We know that people around here buy motorcycles,” says Neil. “The roads here are very easy and fun to ride.”

But he is also aware that times have changed when it comes to motorcycles and his team has a different set of challenges facing it to when he first entered the profession.

“It is a very peak and trough industry,” he explains.

“It is essentially a leisure business now, not a commuter business anymore.

“But, for the first time in the last few years, we have seen more younger people coming in.

“There is a trend for youths to come back to motorcycling now.

“With modern technology, motorcycling is now safer than ever.

“When motorcycles become more common, they are less dangerous.

“This is the case on the continent, where incidents are much lower, although they ride bikes a lot more.”

Neil says that his team, which currently consists of eight people but which he hopes to expand as the business
grows, will be offering customers a very personal experience when they enter the showroom.

“We will help them buy the bike that best suits their needs,” he says.

“We also offer track riding sessions so people can use the bike to its full potential.”

Despite the trials and tribulations of setting up a new, innovative business, Neil has been enjoying the
challenge.

“I have recruited and done everything the way I want it from day one,” he says.

“I have no bad reputation and no good reputation, so everything is a clean slate.

“Everything we have done has been an educated guess and once I see patterns emerging we can modify our systems and react accordingly.”

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All revved up for Kawasaki's pilot showroom