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THE development of the Arnold Clark organisation has progressed at

such a hectic pace -- particularly in recent years -- that it comes as

something of a surprise to discover that the company's origins go back

something like 35 years. That was when Arnold Clark opened what was to

become the first of many dealerships, in Park Road, Kelvinbridge,


Nowadays, with most major car distributorships being moved away from

the city centres, it might seem an unlikely location. It wasn't in 1954.

Park Road was right in the heartland of Glasgow's big car and motorcycle

retail area which was concentrated on and around the St George's Cross

end of Great Western Road.

At that time there were upwards of two dozen major showrooms jostling

for business within yards of each other -- and most were thriving.

The timing, of course, was just right. Britain was still emerging from

post-war austerity and for the first time the man in the street was able

to regard the acquisition of his own motor vehicle, not merely as

something to be vainly wished for but as an attainable expression of his

new-found economic freedom.

It was almost inevitable that a well-managed car dealership would

succeed and that of

Arnold Clark certainly did.

Well-proven business strategies were applied from the outset, not the

least being that if you consistently give your customers the kind of

service you would like others to give you then they will keep coming

back -- and bringing others with them.

An astonishing 22 Arnold Clark branches are now spread across the

centre of Scotland -- plus one in England. All are wholly owned by Mr

Clark, whose ability to retain total control of what is now a huge

enterprise can only be described as remarkable.

Chairman and joint managing director, Arnold Clark shares a formidable

workload with his long-term friend, the other joint managing director,

Mr Glen Gall, who has been with the group for three decades.

Mr Clark takes a particular interest in the service and after sales

side of the business, with Mr Gall taking charge of all aspects of sales

and marketing.

For both men, the workload is immense. Neither considers it surprising

that after spending most of their working lives in the motor trade,

anything less than a seven-day week, 12 hours each day, feels a bit like

playing truant.

The group now sells around 6000 new cars in Scotland every year. New

owners are found for a further 14,000 used cars and, with over 2500 used

vehicles constantly stocked, the group can claim to offer the widest

choice in the trade. Name your model and the chances are that at least

one branch of Arnold Clark will be able to supply it -- and probably in

the preferred colour and trim level.

And that's just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Arnold Clark contract hire, under the guidance of managing director

Hugh Wallace, is now Scotland's biggest contract hire operator with a

current fleet totalling 20,000 vehicles. The division operates

nationwide, customers ranging from the single car business to medium and

very large concerns in both the private and public sectors.

With leasing and contract hire showing every sign of becoming even

more popular in future, the scope for development offered to the

contract hire division of the group is such that, in time, its

activities may well eclipse even those undertaken by the sales of new

and used cars.

In fact if you add the present level of business generated by the hire

drive division, at the moment given its own identity and run by Jeffrey

Clark, son of the chairman, it already does.

Jeffrey Clark and his staff have 1400 rental cars plus 350 vans and

light commercials to look after and the rates charged for these compare

favourably with dedicated hire drive specialists.

Other impressive figures are turned in by the group's involvement in

providing transport for the disabled.

The Arnold Clark organisation was appointed by Austin Rover to supply

vehicles under the motability scheme, initiated when the Government

phased out the familiar invalid tricycles. The latter served a useful

purpose for a while, but were inclined to be unstable, poorly equipped

and could not carry passengers.

Replacing them with ''proper'' cars which could be equipped with hand

controls and which could carry a whole family was a progressive step and

Arnold Clark covers the whole of Scotland and the North of England

''buying back'' around 8000 vehicles annually, these having been sold

and serviced by the group.

Another underpublicised fact is that the group is now Scotland's

biggest coachbuilder with no fewer than 12 bodyshops operating under its

banner. Again fully equipped and expertly staffed, these can handle

everything from scratched paintwork to major accident repairs and are

strategically sited throughout the group's operational area.

Given the number of cars which are handled in an average year, it goes

without saying that the service and parts sector of the group handles an

immense amount of work.

These operate in every branch and provide efficient and cost-effective

work as part of their franchise. All of the mechanics are factory

trained and have access to modern diagnostic equipment which helps keep

costs to a minimum.

Service departments can offer fixed price ''menu servicing'' at only

#35 for any make of vehicle -- and no appointments or pre-booking is


The group as a whole takes great pride in the standard of after-sales

and customer care service, a point underlined by the fact that the


Edinburgh, Peugeot Talbot dealership has just received a Golden Lion

Award from the car manufacturer -- one of only two of these coveted

trophies to find its way to Scotland.

Parts and accessories? Again an important part of the day-to-day

running of the group. Stewart McAulay is parts director and he looks

after the complex business of keeping 22 outlets fully stocked as well

as running a wholesale distribution service to other dealers. Austin

Rover, Vauxhall, Renault and Peugeot Talbot parts are offered with

express delivery and competitive prices guaranteed.

In all the Arnold Clark organisation provides direct employment for

11,000 people in Scotland -- most of them known to the chairman by name.