News : Sterling closes its doors for the last time

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

David Lyndon

 A leading name in MG Rover specialists since 2006: Sterling Automotive has ceased  trading..
A leading name in MG Rover specialists since 2006, Sterling Automotive has ceased trading.

 After serving MG and Rover customers since December 2006, Sterling Automotive has been placed into administration and has ceased trading. Founded by Patrick Warner in Eastbourne, Sterling went on to build up an enviable reputation for dependable care and repair of MG Rover, Jaguar and Land Rover products after local dealer groups either retrenched or changed franchises after the collapse of MG Rover in April 2005.

Following the re-birth of MG in 2008, Sterling took on the franchise for the East and West Sussex area selling the TF and, more recently, MG6 models. Despite all efforts to market the MG6 following the extremely popular TF being deleted, Sterling sadly entered administration following losses born out of the failure of the sales business.

The Brighton-based Sterling business was then restructured and opened another Service Centre back in Eastbourne under the control of Director, Nigel Goodyear, but with Patrick continuing to greet customers in Eastbourne. After a period of steady business, some internal politics caused the resignation and departure of Patrick Warner in August 2012.

Sterling Automotive (Brighton) Limited moved out of their existing premises in the same year. An insider told us: ‘a fundamentally flawed decision to relocate apparently to save cash, a marked change in attitudes coupled to fading customer loyalty due to the location of the new premises without doubt became their ultimate downfall. Once the new regime took hold after Mr Warner departed, the magic just vanished.’

Sterling caused a sensation a few years back when it developed the ultimate K-Series head gasket replacement; it was the first after-market company to offer a five-year guarantee on parts and workmanship.

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

18 Comments

  1. Sad, but not surprising. After all, there are hardly any MGR cars around that people will pay others to service and repair – they’re effectively ‘bangers’ now, or cherished young timers that are looked after by their owners.

    And the service business for the hugely successful (or not) 6 and relaunched TF isn’t enough to keep a business going for the *whole country*, let alone one area.

  2. A sad loss, but as Brian says not surprising. Independent specialists tend to be for high value cars who’s owners want to keep in tip top condition to maximise their value without having to use the dealer network. Hence the proliferation of VW/SAAB/BMW/MB and Alfa indies, but considerably fewer Rover/Kia/Ford/Vauxhall ones…

  3. A great shame as this seemed to be a “nice little business” and a great asset to MG Rover owners. It may have helped if they had promoted themselves as “all makes” repairers (but perhaps they did?).

    Even my local Ford dealer is now advertising as a Unipart Car Care Centre for all makes, as well as the usual Ford Main dealer services… Tricky business conditions out there.

  4. Shame, it seems once Patrick departed so did his enthusiasm. Sterling had built up an enviable reputation in the south of England. I hope the fitters all find fresh employers too.

  5. I suppose it’s ultimately an issue of business volume. As the number of MGR cars falls then garages, service centres cannot survive on MGR A potential problem for me Brian, above. My ZR is no banger – it’s my pride & joy but I need someone else to look after it as I don’t have the ability myself. That said my local MGR service specialist still seems to be doing well. My ZR was there today for an oil change and general interim service. The workshop and three mechanics were having a busy morning with my ZR and another plus a ZT.
    The business has, however, diversified to some extent – I also spotted a MINI and again noted that the word ‘Rover’ has been deleted from the business name although the Viking ship still features on their van and other signs.

  6. The failure of the sales business is no great surprise, quite how any dealer keeps the lights on with current sales levels remains a mystery. I’d love to speak to a sales person they must be so bored.

  7. Shame, but no surprise. I do get my 75 serviced at a garage, but a localigeneral independant. Here in the west midlands there are still a good number of MGRs running about. MG Motor products remain a rare sight, although I have seen two six’s and a TF recently.

    Tough time for all specialists, any brand. We had a Lamcia specialist nearby, but he seems to of diversified out now too

  8. A shame to see a small business go under.
    It’s getting to the point where all that shall exist, whether you are buying cars, food or TVs, shall be the glass-and-steel warehouses in retail parks.

    I wonder how the Saab specialists are going to get on?

    And the Alfa specialists in a few years, given Alfa only sell a couple of small hatchbacks these days.

  9. TBH I’m expecting the local MG franchise to go to the wall before much longer. They can’t make much cash being a TVR/Noble dealer & specialist either. They aren’t exactly in a prime location either, being in a very small town on a B road

  10. @ David Dawson1:

    I too, still use a former MG Rover Group garage for servicing my late build MG ZR. They do a good job and the labour rates are reasonable. While waiting for it to be serviced I like walking past their showroom in the High Street and looking up to view the huge Rover Viking longship still attached to the site of the building. I really must find out whether it could be listed so as to preserve its rightful place on that period building.

  11. Francis has it bang on to be honest, the only dealers that seem to be keeping their heads above water are the huge multi franchise groups. Even Skoda dealers now, 99% of them are part of motor groups, and are on multi franchise sites. My local one is Renault/Skoda/Dacia and has a big used car lot with about 60 cars on. I noticed that EMG in Bury St Edmunds is no longer a Ford dealer and just has used stock. They can’t have long left

  12. Really sad to hear this. Patrick and his team repaired my MG after 2 accidents – one which deemed my car a write-off by another company. They sourced parts and fought with the insurance company to keep my car on the road and how pleased I was when he won the battle and got it back to its beautiful self again. I love my MG and their love of MG’s, proved that it wasn’t about money – more the history and the love of the cars that made them want to keep these cars on the road and part of GB. A special company to work with. Very sad times for a classic British car.

  13. “An insider told us: ‘a fundamentally flawed decision to relocate apparently to save cash, a marked change in attitudes coupled to fading customer loyalty due to the location of the new premises without doubt became their ultimate downfall. Once the new regime took hold after Mr Warner departed, the magic just vanished.’”

    I think that this sums up a good part of the problem. You are only as good as your staff and customer service is paramount in the motor sales and repair trade.

    Nonetheless it is sad to see an established independent business go under.

  14. In Bristol we have a specialist like this company, although less well-known. They have a website that does not give much away about what they do – http://www.mjnmotors.co.uk/

    I am not sure what they charge for labour but I am sure it is more than the £40 my local independent (and very good) garage charge. About the only reason why I am tempted to go there is because the service counter was not reset last time my MG ZT was serviced.

    The car has a service book with all the stamps (early ones are MG Rover garages, later ones are independents). I am under no illusion that a fully-stamped up book will add much to the value. Certainly nowhere near what it would cost to get all the stamps. I think this is why garages like this struggle to survive.

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