Blog : The death of a Honda dealership

Words: Clive Goldthorp Photography: Simon Davies/Pegasus Photographics and Honda (UK)

My local Honda dealership, Two Mills Honda Limited, ceased trading two weeks ago – just as my wife and I were about to book our 09/59 Honda Jazz 1.4i ES and 11/61 Honda Civic 1.8i EX GT in for their Annual Services and, in the case of the former, an MoT. Our current Hondas are the fourteenth and fifteenth to have been owned by our household since 1987, so we consider ourselves to be part of the ‘Honda family’.

We had known that the company’s Franchise Agreement with Honda Motor Europe Limited t/a Honda (UK) was coming to an end on 31 October 2012, but had received an email dated 24 October 2012 stating that the company would still be an official Honda Authorised Service Centre – the subsequent and sudden closure of the business therefore came as a real shock to us and, no doubt, a considerable number of the other Wirral-based Honda customers who have bought Hondas from the company over the years.

The site at Two Mills has, in fact, been home to the Wirral’s Honda dealership for over 40 years – every Honda model from the original S800 Coupe and Roadster to the current, MY12 Civic has been sold from there. Indeed, back in the day, the dealership was one of only a handful chosen to sell the NSX. However, the Potteries-based Regional Dealer Group, which acquired the Honda dealership in Chester a few years ago, will be opening new, multi-million pound Honda and Hyundai dealerships at Cheshire Oaks early in 2013. The two locations are just five miles and ten minutes apart – from Honda (UK)’s perspective, that appears to be too close for comfort…

Admittedly, neither the Regional Dealer Group concerned nor Honda (UK) are likely to put all the factors behind the decision to terminate Two Mills Honda Limited’s franchise into the public domain for reasons of commercial confidentiality. However, the company’s happy and loyal customer base might be forgiven for thinking that their views count for nothing – we are, after all, supposed to be members of the ‘Honda family’ so what, if any, steps did Honda (UK)’s Head of Dealer Development, Nick Campolucci, and his colleagues take to consult and engage with Two Mills Honda Limited’s customers before making the decision to terminate the company’s franchise?

The issues of the Wirral Globe and Wirral News published on the 31 October 2012 both carried advertorials about Two Mills and included an extract from a letter sent by a customer, Jane Milne, to Honda (UK)’s Managing Director, David Hodgetts, as follows:

‘The staff were genuinely friendly, knowledgeable, respectful and courteous… I have come to appreciate the support of extremely professional, highly-trained staff who have provided me with truly excellent service … The staff of Two Mills have repeatedly demonstrated that they value me as their customer.

‘The relationship they have cultivated with me over the last 11 years is testament to the culture and values the Two Mills team have worked extremely hard to create, develop and maintain… They certainly know how to go the ‘extra mile’ for their customers.

‘They are always happy to help and I know I am in safe and reliable hands. Two Mills have become so much more than just a car dealership – it is more like popping in on long-standing and trusted friends who care.’

Honda (UK) presumably has a CSI Dealer Ranking and one therefore wonders how Two Mills Honda Limited scored in relation to, say, the Honda dealerships operated by the Regional Dealer Group referred to above but, as Jane Milne’s letter so eloquently emphasises, those statistics do not tell the full story. Most of Two Mills Honda Limited’s past and, until two weeks ago, current customers would almost certainly endorse Jane Milne’s sentiments simply because the Directors, Paul Hawkins and Mark Lambe, and their staff invested so much time in developing enduring relationships with the company’s customers.

All successful relationships, be they personal or professional, are based on trust – the Directors and staff of Two Mills Honda Limited earned the trust of their customers who, in turn, trusted Honda (UK). However, the events of earlier this month will have left many of those customers with the impression that Honda (UK)’s decision to terminate Two Mills Honda Limited’s franchise was a significant factor in the company’s subsequent closure and, as such, constituted a breach of that trust…

Moreover, many of them may, like me, believe that, in this context and especially in these challenging economic times, people – customers and employees alike – are more important than premises. Indeed, as most Honda owners are probably wise enough to have learned, all that glistens is not necessarily golden.

Honda (UK)’s decision therefore risks alienating the Wirral’s loyal Honda customers and severely eroding, if not completely eradicating, the trust they had in the Honda marque – trust which may well take a long time to re-build. Indeed, when Adam Jackson of Great Meols, Wirral posted that ‘without Two Mills, there is no Honda’ on the Two Mills Honda Facebook page, he may well, one suspects, have neatly summarised the opinion of many of the company’s now former customers…

Nick Campolucci, Head of Dealer Development, Honda (UK)Nick Campolucci, Honda (UK)’s Head of Dealer Development (left), provided AROnline with this comment about the closure of Two Mills Honda Limited: ‘We have had a long and enjoyable relationship with Two Mills Honda. The last four years have seen some unprecedented challenges in the economy and the car industry has felt these as hard as any industry. We have been in discussion with Two Mills about the future of the Honda marque in Cheshire for more than three years. We have looked at multiple set ups and structures for representing the brand in the best possible light from both a customer’s perspective and that of business viability. The decision to change a long-term sales partner within our Franchise is never an easy one to make as we always look to our existing dealers for expansion first.

‘However, at Honda we need to plan and manage the current and future aspirations and trends of the customer whilst being able to create a viable opportunity for each of the business partners we work with. In this instance, the decision to relocate and change the Sales Franchise operator was taken in consultation with all the current business partners.

‘We planned to continue our relationship with Two Mills through the Service Franchise and were confused when we heard the news that they had decided to close the business. We wish the team at Two Mills all the best for the future and advise customers to visit our website to locate their nearest dealer for Sales and Service.’

Clive Goldthorp


  1. I suppose it is unsurprising. Of all the mainstream Far Eastern franchises , this is the one NOT to have , with an aging and unappetising line up of cars which represent very poor value . It is noteworthy that October 2012 sales were down more than 30% compared with October 2011 in a market that was otherwise flourishing . Sadly, Honda always seems to do the wrong thing – remember the Nigel Mansell and Williams fiasco ? – and this is another example. I anticipate that the brand will continue to decline in the UK

  2. This could so easily have been Nissan (their nearest equivalent) on a larger scale. Had Ghosn not taken direction on the company, they’d still be making really staid looking bean-counter led cars. Nissan is much more design led and Honda hasn’t really responded to this. (can’t really include Toyota in this because they’re pretty much in a league of their own.. They’re certainly strongly engineered led which has cemented their reputation, in my view- and despite the accelerator debacle, well above those two companies)

  3. More than likely, they have run into the mire owing to the inability to pay for stock cars – most dealers have the cars on a 90 day basis whereby cars not sold after this time are at the liability of the dealer.

    Should the importer / manufacturer get the slightest whiff of credit problems or funding issues, a dealer investigation squad will have a rootle around and a discussion with all parties involved.

    In the event of a serious cash shortfall, the dealer will be served a termination of franchise notice, and then that`s that!

  4. Damn shame. Trouble is, that car manufacturers seem to regard dealers as little more than those teenage salesboys at Curry’s – disposable purveyors of appliances to be hired and fired according to this week’s sales targets. They don’t seem to see the bigger picture in regards to creating goodwill and relationships, as discussed by Mike Humble et al in various threads on this site.

  5. Two Mills Honda have apparently gone into liquidation. Begbies Traynor (Preston Office) are apparently the liquidators.

    On another site, someone claiming to be from Chester Honda has stated that they have spent £6 million on the new site at Cheshire Oaks which opens in January.

    Perhaps Two Mills Honda did not have/could not borrow £6 million and perhaps Cheshire Oaks gets more footfall than the Two Mills site.

    I assume the picture above of the closed site is recent? There is a large sign in the showroom adverting the NSX. When was that last sold? 2005? Does that say something about the showroom refurbishment budget?

  6. @ Chris

    Although we’ve argued on the other threads that the premium makes should try a bit harder at times when it comes to their dealers, I think overall, what you describe is largely a trait of the big makes like Ford, Vauxhall/Opel, PSA, Renault etc – where the obsession with volume and being on top of the sales charts matters more than anything else. It drives everything – from all the “artificial” sales generated by registering demonstrators and fleet cars, not to mention the huge numbers of ex-hire Focuses, Astras etc that get dumped on the market annually – it is ultimately this that has driven the throwaway approach to selling cars.

    There has definately always been a correlation between the Far Eastern makes who, with limited import quotas, selling mainly to private buyers seem to always seem to come out on top for customer service – it’s no coincidence.

    Times are a ‘changing though – a lot of the big leasing companies, who not that long ago had a policy of ‘any car you like as long as its a Ford or a Vauxhall’, have all sorts of foreign machinery on their books these days (all four VAG makes, even some Japanese stuff when I looked at my partner’s company car list) – so will we see the previously ‘bit player’ makes getting exposed to a lot of the traits of the ‘mainstream’ makes i.e. lower residuals, bulk selling at discounts from big dealer groups and supermarkets, and consequent slack customer service?

  7. If the Honda dealership in Exeter (or any of the dealerships in Marsh Barton in Exeter, for that matter) went I would not lose any sleep. Nearly all of them are owned by large regional dealer groups who seem to treat you as if you have come off a conveyor belt. The days of the friendly trust-based customer service along the lines of smaller, family-owned garages are very much in the minority.

    As a member of my family will testify, even the Mercedes-Benz dealer asks you how long you will be keeping your new purchase the moment they have handed you the keys, and then keep sending you details of second-hand cars every few months. Wy would I want to buy a two year-old Mercedes Benz when I have just taken delivery of a brand new example? I thought Mercedes Benz cars, particularly the E-Class, were expensive, not something that have a quick turnaround, mainstream appeal like a Ford or Peugeot? I won’t mention the lack of goodwill when something goes wrong (not service related) less than a month after the warranty has expired.

    Fewer manufacturers are recognising that ‘trust’ is actually a hierachical process which for the customer usually starts at dealer level.

    Perhaps we should be singing the praises of dealerships that do deliver that traditional friendly service many of us miss.

  8. Great shame… it looks a nice size showroom (but perhaps too small for Honda’s aspirations?). I agree that dealers like this which develop a rapport with their client base are what’s preferred by me. Sadly, hard to find these days.

  9. All of the comments are pertinent. However, here’s a thought for the manufacturers: as a private buyer who normaly buys new, the quality and availability of a local dealer is paramount to me.

    Mess with the dealer and I might buy something else -there are very few “bad” cars these days, just a few that appeal to me more than others. The dealer is the difference.

  10. @7 My local Honda dealer is in a retail unit beside a kitchen showroom. No complaints for the few occasions I’ve used them for parts or service.

  11. Our local family-run Honda Dealership in Helensburgh closed last year in what sound like very similar circumstances.

    The rumours were that Honda wanted certain investments to be made in the premises which the owners simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make.

    It reminds me of the wholesale slaughter of Rover’s network of small family owned dealers by BMW. Sadly it would seem that car companies want all dealerships to be huge, soulless chrome and glass edifices that were beyond the means and needs of the business but satisfy some deluded need foe a “corporate image”.

    Personally I hate the places and would rather stick pins in my eyes than buy from them.

  12. Good article Clive. Manufacturers seem to be moving away from family run dealerships which offer excellent customer service. Honda have had falling market share in the last few years that has hit cashflow for smaller honda only outlets. This wont have helped in this case

  13. Can’t help thinking that a continuation of the Rover/Honda relationship would have been great for both companies…

  14. I’ve seen old non-chrome and glass showrooms converted into:
    – Ice cream shop and restaurant (Mazda)
    – Tyre fitter (Renault)
    – overly large Storeroom for the front petrol station (Ford)
    – Hire shop (Mitsubishi)
    – Retail units (Can’t remember, possibly VW)

    The old Rover dealers in the area have converted into used car showrooms, one of which even still has the burgundy colour scheme – ,
    Unipart, Lucas! –

  15. sounds a bit harsh but no one cared about mg rover bl cars downward slide a few years ago. never thought id see this day with the almighty jap car giant!!!

  16. I live near here and pass regularly. Very sad to see and a prime location on the Liverpool/wirral (A550) to North Wales Trunk road and just a couple of miles from affluent Chester. A good catchment area if ever there was.
    Not only were there Hondas sold but many supercars like Ferarris etc.too…
    Directly opposite is one of the new HUGE Mini only dealerships. So its not a location issue. . .


  17. My Local Honda dealer ,which is a small family run dealership,says they are effectively a 3 car franchise,Jazz,Civic & CR-V.So no wonder Honda dealers are struggling.They lose the Accord next year so even less incremental sales from the niche sellers.

  18. I think car manufacturers should realise that a strong, loyal, personal, long term relationship between customer and dealer is very important. As remarked elsewhere, the former BL>MG Rover dealer, Edgar and Son in Rowrah, Cumbria is a prime example of this. I’m sure this dealer’s excellent service resulted in greater repeat business and higher sales for BL>MG Rover. To some extent people went back to the dealer, regardless of the shortcomings of the Ital, Maestro etc. I’m sure this is still the case now they trade in other marques.

    I know I’m much happier when I deal with a garage I know and trust. Hence there is currently only one garage on the Wirral with licence to touch my ZR – here’s an advert for you Peter Jones in Oxton!

  19. @18

    Stunned to hear that Honda are dropping the Accord. Slow seller but a nice big bus.

    Shame that traditional dad cars are a dying breed – Primera, Laguna, Accord…

    Theres always the Avensis / 6 for big Japanese saloons.

  20. Has anyone actually bought a new car from one of these fancy glass palaces and been satisfied? Whereas these warm and friendly family run dealers bent over backwards for their customers time and again.

  21. 20 years ago my dad was a honda dealer here in Slovenia, and yes it was a family business….he i was helping and one mechanic (a guy who later won the central european honda mechanic contest….so a capable guy)….the dealership was an one car display but was capable of selling more than 100 cars yearly most those time civic VTi and 2 legends and 1 NSX and many preludes…but the corporate thinking was not quite in favour of my dad.
    So they didnt renew him the contract and bulid a new monster of glass and steal… pesonal care of the clients no bildig some special relationship with clients.
    Now the new dealership went to bancrupcy, the building is now owned by the Renault-dacia-nissan brand and me and my dad have a bitter sweet taste in mouth when we pass there

  22. There’s an advert for Honda running on commercial these days, which seems to sum up all their problems. The voice-over is done by what sounds like a very old american man (why american?) who is on the verge of tottering over and dying. It’s almost painful, slow and dull. Who are they aiming at with an advert like that?

  23. Unfortunately for private buyers, the franchised Dealers need a rapid through-put of new cars to survive. The only way to achieve this is through sales to fleets, and most of these will be off their patch.

    Most potential buyers entering the showroom will probably be ordering via their employer’s leasing company and the car will be supplied by a dealer many miles away.

    From a new car perspective, the dealer now is largely just a showroom for the manufacturer where you can touch and feel the new cars before placing your order on-line, but the dealer will still invest in you as a private buyer because you may end up buying a 1 or 2 year old ‘manufacturer approved’ used car for the missus while you’re there.

    Now then – ‘Manufacturer approved’ used car schemes – that’s a subject for another day….

  24. I wonder what will happen to Mitsubishi now as well – the Lancer is getting canned , Theres no Galant any more , the Evo is finished and new Shoguns cost about £35K , I work opposite a family run Mitsi dealer thats been on the go since 1978 and all they seem to sell now are the odd Colt (which is due to be replaced soon) and the L200 pick up. Gone are the heady days of the late 80s and early 90s when they had the Colt and Lancer GTi 16V , and the Galant GTI with the option of 4WD and 4WS!

  25. Once again the name Edgars crops up again. Even though they built themselves a chrome and glass showroom in Workington, they are still a family business and have a massive following locally. Also they seem to have latched on to rising marques like Nissan, Suzuki and Hyundai to replace their decades long loyalty to British Leyland and continue to do well.

  26. I pass Two Mills on a regular basis and nearly ran into the car in front when i saw the honda logos covered up and a bare showroom! Having a dirty great MINI outlet opposite probably only exaggerated the fact that Honda’s current range is still stuck in the Bournemouth blue-rinse category..

    A sad loss after so many years but inevitable. This location is a real prime site, it is one of the main link roads between the North-West and North Wales with a fair bit of Irish traffic thrown in as well, it won’t be long before another dealer snaps up the site.

  27. A local Honda dealer closed down around 5 years ago and hasn’t been replaced. Then another one in Harlow closed too, and now we are in the situation that there are just three Honda dealers in the large county of Essex. Southend and Basildon is one of the biggest catchment areas around, and there’s a fair few blue-rinse customers in the retirement zones, and yet, there’s still not a Honda dealer there.

    Funnily enough, there was a long standing Honda dealer that closed up in the early 2000’s. Dragon Honda had been there for years, but because they wouldn’t invest millions in a shiny new showroom, their franchise was terminated. The fact that the current one was very presentable, smart, and boasted good customer service wasn’t a consideration. The only franchise that wasn’t represented in the area was Suzuki, but that wasn’t enough to sustain them and in the end they went bust. Very sad indeed.

  28. My name is Luke Regan, I am the new Dealer Principal at Chester Honda soon to be Cheshire Oaks Honda. I have recently left working for Honda UK after 4 years to take up this fantatsic opportunity. The new Cheshire Oaks site was a decision made by Honda to give this area a brand new facility which will hopefully suit existing and potentially new customers to the Honda brand, serving more communication routes into the Wirral, Chester and North Wales.

    I am proud to say I am working for a family-run business, which has over 40 years experience with Honda and has won numerous awards with Honda for customer service and it will certainly be my intention to give every customer who visits this site a fantastic, warm and friendly experience.

    Before working for Honda I also worked Stuart Graham Honda in Crewe, but which started in Aston out towards Whitchurch. When we moved sites in 2004, many customers were annoyed and disappointed as they thought they would loose the great service thay had recieved for so many years, but this was not the case. If you have great people who know what it is like to be a customer as well and know how to treat people then, in my opinion, service will resume at the same if not improved level with state of the art facilities. I know that going to Cheshire Oaks Honda are a fabulous team, including a few familiar faces who had previously worked with Two Mills – they will deliver the experience I know Honda customers, in fact all customers will and should expect.

    As for the future of Honda, well, just before I left Honda UK was performing ahead of the market place on retail sales and was up in the second half of the year compared to the first. The products like CR-V and Jazz still remain class leading and I know there are a host of new models coming in the next 2- 5 years and I saw no indictation that Accord was being dropped or any reason to do so – Honda is well and truly on the up, investing more in their plant at Swindon, creating 500 more jobs in Britain so their intentions are clear if sometimes their marketing is not.

    It is sad to see what has happened with Two Mills. I know that they looked after many, many local customers who where delighted with their service. But I have already witnessed nearly 200 customers (previously with Two Mills) either visit or phone in, who have been welcomed by our staff and who have been in some cases overjoyed with the level of service they have recieved and are more than happy for Chester Honda/Cheshire Oaks Honda to be looking after both them and their vehicle in the future.

    Cheshire Oaks Honda will be open by mid to late January 2013 and for any enquires please contact either 01244 343000 or

  29. We have been very lucky by comparison, the family owned dealer at the end of the road was originally Rover (having been either Austin or Morris or both since the 1920’s. Mainstay became Skoda when MG Rover went, but had Daihatsu, Proton and more recently SAIC MG. With another site nearby handling Renault. The family sold the dealership to a larger group concentrating on just Skoda and servicing Renault. Fortunately they have taken across all the customer facing team who we know and have a great relationship with. So the site is still operating and thankfully the guys are still employed (and they still sell petrol out the front from a single pump with a chap who comes out and does it for you!)

  30. Don’t always think family dealer= good, franchise= bad, for all I know there are some bad franchises around, not mentioning any names I can think of a Vauxhall dealership who are run by a family( more of a figurehead now) that have an awful reputation locally. However, on balance, though, our other family firms like Edgars, Stan Palmer, B and H Motors and Telfords have a very high reputation.

  31. Why the hell were they still advertising the NSX? It went out of production years ago, no wonder HUK pulled their franchise if they cared so little about keeping the showroom up to date!

  32. ”All successful relationships, be they personal or professional, are based on trust”

    Down here in the south, Honda UK and certain dealers lost my trust when they all refused to acknowledge that my Civic had a fault which was initially notified to the manager of the Honda franchised retailer within 300 miles and six weeks from taking delivery of the new vehicle.

    There never was any sense that customer satisfaction had any importance whatsoever. I felt was always considered a bloody nuisance for being concerned about the problem.

    A senior employee of Honda UK advised me the vehicle was ‘operating to specification’. Does that mean the fault was designed in? Then why did he volunteer to supply me with a proprietory kit to try to ‘pacify’ me.

    Honda? Forget it.

  33. I believe the future of Honda in UK is very bright, key sellers Jazz Civic CRV are manufacturesd in the modern efficient plant near Swindon, the cars from Japanese plants which are uncompetitive in price due to £:yen are being run down.

    Check the price of the Jazz and Civic £12k and £17k respectively, the Jazz especially such a bargain.

    Honda ride high and mighty in JD Powers survey for reliability, and Honda engines are fuel efficient as claimed. Do you really want the VW scenario? warranty claim warranty claim warranty claim.

    Why am I reading knocking of the blue rinse/grey set?
    They have decades of motoring/ownership, they have the means to run their cars properly, and a sense of fair play, the people you would wish to have as neighbours.

  34. Like many others, I was shocked to see the end of Two Mills. Also,I would like to correct any wrong interpretation given by the existence for the NSX sign, so prominent on the showroom wall.

    I still own an NSX which I purchased new in 1994. Two Mills were one of a handful of Honda dealers that maintained both the trained staff and tooling to maintain these rare beasts. Even though I now live many miles away, I always took my NSX all the way to Two Mills for service. They knew these cars inside out.

    The NSX sign on the wall was displayed with pride. It was an indication that they were just a little bit special. Had Two Mills survived, I am sure they would have been first in line to sell and service the new NSX when it hits the market (2013?)

    I have owned many, many other cars since 1994 but the NSX is here to stay. It still looks like the day it was made and has never missed a beat. In 18 years, apart from service items, it has had a clutch, two batteries and a side light bulb – that’s it!

    The demise of Two Mills is a very sad loss for many customers who have stayed loyal over many years. I wish the directors and all the former staff the very best in the future.



  36. Yes, it’s so,so much better taking your car to a garage which you know and trust. One that you have a good relationship with. This is the sort of relationship I am now developing with Peter Jones Engineering – the Rover specialist just moments from my front door who has looked after my ZR since I purchased it (and always since new). I rang them this morning to book an oil change and a bit of a check over since last service (just 5500 ago!). I beamed from ear to ear when the voice at the other end of the line remembered my last visit and said “it’s the green one, isn’t it?”

  37. I was a long standing customer of Two Mills and I was dismayed when I heard they had lost the franchise and that they subsequently closed.

    OK, in business franchises come and go but I’m particularly disappointed that I sent a note to Honda UK and they didn’t even bother to respond. That tells me all I need to know.

  38. A little tale regarding the value of taking your car to a trusted garage.
    My 75 had been looked after by a place near work. This was convenient and it was also a Land Rover specialist. However, with my ZR I now take the day off work and go to Peter Jones Engineering, Oxton, Wirral (a Rover specialist). After four earlier visits (two interim and one full service plus a quick visit to get the emergency key access code) I was there again on Thursday, my near side electric window mechanism having failed. Arrived about two minutes before Peter ay 8:20am so we walked to his office together. “Morning David” he said. That’s class I thought – it’s only my fifth visit in 9 months! He reassured me by obviously being familiar with the problem & having the parts in stock. I walked home beaming, certain my ZR would be ready by 1:30 as stated. True enough it was. I’d recommend him to anyone!!

  39. Big “NSX” logo on the back wall – anything to try to add a bit of glamour to the current dreary Honda product range!

    I use a similar small dealership (Honda Southall) to look after my old Honda CRV. My nearest dealer is in Chiswick, a massive plate glass palace, but I find the service at Southall much better. The place is always deserted every time I go in there, and I wonder how they make any money. Hope they don’t go the same way as Two Mills.

  40. The Accord is a nice big cruiser, but pricey.

    Civic a grand C segment hatch, different to the other tortoise shaped 2 boxers, if a little bloated compared to previous gen.

    After last Honda would happily get another. One of the few cars I regret selling…

    At least they took their signage down, unlike the local closed MG dealer – MG are happy to see their signage on an abandoned building, ripe for vandalism, to reinforce people’s perceptions that the brand is dead…. 🙁

  41. Honda has nothing to bring a bit of glamour to the showroom. Jazz, Civic, CRV, and a bunch of dull hybrid cars – how OLD must their customer base be?

    They really need something sporty and exciting to raise the company’s profile. They tease us with the new Civic Type-R and a possible high-power version of the CRZ, and supposedly a new NSX is coming in 2015, but they frequently promise more than they deliver.

    I have an old CR-V as a beater, and occasionally visit the Honda owner forums – they’re full of people moaning about how the products aren’t as good as they were in the old days, and how Audi and BMW “stole” the company’s customers.

  42. Two Mills building is still empty . Meanwhile , some luckless Honda dealer has taken over the empty Peugeot showroom on the A41 just south of Chester . It will be interesting to see if they get on any better than the Peugeot people, and also to see whether the area can stand two Honda dealers because another has opened in brand new glitzy premises near the Cheshire Oaks retail park at Ellesmere Port . As others have said, it’s appealing products that Honda need but are unable to supply, rather than expensive premises

  43. We too were shocked to find Two Mills closed. I am a big Honda fan and love my 2005 Accord Toured which I’ve owned from 1 year old. My partner had a Civic until recently, again fantastic bomb proof car which she only swapped because she wanted an MX5.
    About 5 years ago my partners elderly uncle needed a replacement for his expiring Skoda and I persuaded him to go for a Jazz based on their reputation. Just before Christmas he got a recall and told us he would take the car to Two Mills. We then found out about the closure. He is 89 years old and lives in rural north Wales so was not keen on having to negotiate taking the car to Cheshire Oaks on unfamiliar roads. Unfortunately, Cheshire Oaks could not help with picking up the car so my partner explained the situation to Honda Uk. All credit to Honda Uk, they arranged pickup and delivery back to his home free of charge. I will remain loyal to the brand after this experience.

  44. All too common apropos Honda and its dealer network.

    Here in the North East pretty much all the dealers, within any sensible distance, are owned by one group. They’re all terrible. The sales staff are vacuous and the service personnel considerably less-than-competent.

    The pursuit of numbers at all cost is part of the root cause, but Honda’s UK management have played a leading role in the brand’s demise. The current product range is utterly lacklustre, displaying uninspiring design, with a very large question mark about quality of manufacture.

    My recent ownership of a Civic Hybrid sealed the brand’s fate with me.

  45. At least they took their logo off the wall, unlike the empty MG showroom in Belfast which is still adorned with octagons growing moss.

  46. It’s a shame because Honda are the only Asian car company that make an interesting car. Nissans are boring, ugly, badly made Renaults in disguise, Mazdas are unreliable drop outs, Toyota make hugely over rated and hugely ugly blando mobiles, driven by old and blind people. The Koreans make gawky, incomplete cars but seem to be improving on a year by year basis.

  47. A problem for Honda in the UK is their cars are not perceived as being “aspirational”. Misguided buyers head for the VW/Audi showroom to satisfy this shallow-minded craving.

  48. I sell Hondas for a living, they are fantastic! I joined from kia, who’s cars do seem great value however when they come in as px after 3 years….l they feel 6 years old. I don’t even test the honda Px’s as they are always solid. Market share is on the up, and arrivals like the hrv that are due shortly, honda will smash targets! I sell a jazz a day without fail, September 2014 my commissions were around the 8k mark, that is from a small family run dealership on the south coast. One thing I will admit to is the age of our customers is most of the time plus 55, they will need to get the young guns through the door to keep up granted…. Have you seen the 2015 type r?? It is an incredible Porsche eating machine at 30k it is expensive but would you buy a renault instead!

  49. The last town centre dealer in Whiehaven moved out 2 years ago, with the old showroom still containing SEAT branding and posters. Originally B and H Motors was the now defunct SMT, and sold Vauxhalls and Ciitroens from this site. Also go back to the eighties and the town centre had several family dealers, all of whom have either closed down totally or moved to out of town sites.

  50. Similar situation in my town. All the former family motor dealers have gone from the town centre area
    and re-located to the outskirts 3 miles away… both franchised and family owned. The nearest Vauxhall & Peugeot dealers is in Sunderland

  51. I can remember when Cockermouth, a town of 10,000 people, had four dealerships, now only one remains, a family owned Honda dealership like the one in the article. Similarly St Bees, a village of about 1800 people once had a small garage that sold Rootes/ Chrysler cars, but this went in the eighties and is now houses.

  52. It is interesting to see that the relentless slide in UK Honda car sales continues. The 5 month figures for 2019 so far are some 20 to 25% down on 2018. It must be galling, and very worrying, to see that Hyundai/Kia combined sold well over 3 times as many cars as Honda, and one wonders just how long it will be before Honda pulls out of the UK . The strange thing is that worldwide sales are buoyant , Lord only knows why?

  53. Apologies, there is an error in my figures. The May 2019 sales were down 26% on 2018 . The year to date figures were 15% down

  54. Maybe the Civic is too radical for many car buyers and while the Jazz is a decent car to drive and upmarket looking, it’s still considered a pensioners car. It’s a shame for Honda sales to have fallen, but people aren’t interested in their latest cars.

  55. I have to say I find the current Civic a bit ugly & fat looking. it’s certainly bigger than previous versions. I much preferred Honda designs of the 1980s, particularly Accords, Preludes & Civics that me & my family have owned over the years.

    I recall Honda were once described as the Japanese BMW rival.

    • I though the new Civic was an Accord, as it’s so big. To me, Honda’s problem is they’re making cars that are too big for one class and too small for the other, and have missed out on trends like city cars.
      Go back to the ninetes, and the Civic and Accord were good looking and ultra reliable cars.

  56. Totally agree Glenn. I had a 1996 company 2.0 Accord and a 97 Civic 1.6 for a while and they were both good performers and nice to drive. The Accord remains the most powerful car I’ve had – to date…

    My brother & Father also owned earlier 1980’s generation Accord 3 door hatchbacks and they were excellent build quality

  57. I think the gap between European and Japanese cars for reliability has really narrowed in recent years and their reliability isn’t such a big selling point as it was in previous decades. Also the Koreans can build cars just as well as the Japanese. I think the main reason people continue to buy Japanese cars is they’ve generally had good experiences with them and the dealers are far better than some of the muppets who sell Fords and Vauxhalls. Something must be going right for my local Toyota dealer as he’s held the franchise for 44 years and is a huge success, while the Ford main dealer has changed hands three times in 20 years and is now owned by Arnold Shark.

    • A lot of early Japanese car dealers were small town garages that lost their BL franchises when the dealer network was consolidated.

      They then seemed to keep the same buyers happy for the next few decades.

      My local Toyota dealer is now part of a chain, but started selling them in 1970.

      • British Leyland’s rationalisaton of dealers in the mid seventies probably lost them even more sales, as many small town dealers willingly took on Datsun and Toyota franchises and as word was getting out these cars were very reliable and good value for money, people queued up to buy them. Also buyers knew the dealers from the British Leyland era and stuck with them when they switched marques.
        My local Toyota dealer took on the brand as a secondary part of his business, which sold Chryslers, then Talbots. He soon found the Toyota side was more profitable and for all he stayed with Chrysler/ Peugeot Talbot until 1996, he switched purely to Toyota, as he knew the customer satisfaction was higher.

        • My first Datsun in 1979 was bought from a local dealer who had been Rootes dealers since I was born. For a while they remained joint franchises with Datsun, (mainly with Chrysler signage though). but as Datsun sales grew, they obviously sold less Chrysler badged cars and advertising was centred more on Datsun

          • Myers and Bowman had been Rootes men from the time they started before World War 2, but when they had the offer of a Toyota franchise in 1975, they jumped at the chance to tap in to the rising demand for Japanese cars. However, they also spotted another lucrative avenue when Chrysler was taken over by Peugeot, and started to sell Peugeots alongside Talbots, eventually becoming a Peugeot dealer when Talbots were finished in 1985.
            Out of interest, we had a Toyota, three Chrysler/ Talbots and a Peugeot from Myers and Bowman, so were probably classed as good customers to them over the years, and never faulted them as dealers. Also nice the dealership is still successful now.

  58. That’s a good family business sounding name – “Myers & Bowman” and good to hear they are still trading.

    My Dad’s Toyota Corolla in 1978 was a 1.2 Auto saloon in green with a cream vinyl roof. It looked inoffensive and was easy to drive despite moderate power… 56bhp? He only kept it 14 months before changing to a Datsun x 2 – then Honda.

    • Myers and Bowman are still family owned and doing very well. Our Corolla was a 1977 1200 saloon, never missed a beat when we owned it and during the 1979 energy crisis, 40 mpg was its big selling point, However, due to the car being a small two door saloon, it wasn’t ideal and it was replaced by a Chrysler Alpine from Myers and Bowman. Interestingly this neither rusted to pieces or had bits fall off, and proved to be a very capable workhorse, even if idling was noisy and made the dashboard rattle.

  59. Sad to say another small local dealership is to close, East Road Garage in Egremont, which has been selling Fords since the sixties. This has been a loyally supported Ford dealership for a long time and one of the few dealers that still has a filling station. Unfortunately, this means Arnold Clark has a monopoly on Ford sales in the area.

    • Also the huge Lookers FORD dealer in Sunderland has closed, which to me would be unthinkable. However every facet of life in the UK at the moment is almost unthinkable!

  60. Ford made public a 5-year plan to reduce their outlets by around 50% from 400 Ford dealers to 200-220 between 2020 and 2025, the dealer which closed, did they have their franchise terminated by Ford or did the owners simply call it a day?

    • The owner retired and there wasn’t a successor. Also the dealership was small and couldn’t compete with Arnold Shark on turnover. You could say as well, Ford just aren’t the huge force they once were, with market share down to 12%, compared with 30% in the early eighties, and maybe they want to concentrate on large dealerships that shift hundreds of cars every year.

        • I am not so surprised that market share has disappeared . Ford were reliant on fleet sales for their volume sales, rather than private purchases and with UK tax changes over the years, the company car market has all but disappeared, and with it Ford’s dominance of the market

          • I have owned 4 Focus’s from my Ford Direct dealer, which gives me a well equipped car with factory optional extras, under a year old with 2 year warranty and at much less price than outright new. I don’t see the point of buying new or PCP at my age.

          • Also a lot of “repmomobiles” are Audis & BMWs that would have been Mondeos, & private purchases for cars this size tend to be SUVs & crossovers.

          • Even the taxi market, which was a major source of income for Ford in the past, has mostly switched to other marques with Skoda, Kia and SEAT being very popular locally. Also people have so much more choice these days and with PCP and leasing deals making German brands more affordable, a non aspirational brand like Ford has suffered.

  61. In my neck of the woods the vast majority of taxis are either Toyota – Prius or Avensis – or Skoda. In the old days they were always Cortinas or Granadas.

    • @ KC, the Sierra was the logical successor for many taxi drivers as it had the same technology as the Cortina and offered a diesel version that was far more economical and capable of huge mileages. For taxi drivers requiring more space, Ford even offered a taxi spec Granada with a diesel engine. Obviously Ford were desperate in the eighties to continue their domination of the taxi market, especially as some drivers were switching to the better Cavalier and Carlton.

  62. A workmate changed a long-term habit of buying BMW, he bought a new Mondeo, his logic you pay far too much to own and run a BMW, the Mondeo is just as good for a lot less less money, nothing wrong with a Mondeo as anyone who has tried one, I was impressed by the quality of the car

  63. Well, I cannot quite believe that ten years have passed since we published the above article. Ironically, when we were coming back from Chester having had a look at a tidy, low mileage 07/57 Honda S2000 which Graham Walker Limited currently has for sale, my wife and I drove past the former Two Mills Honda Limited site this morning – I commented that the dealership had been closed for ten years without realising that the article was, in fact, published exactly ten years ago today…

    Time has, of course, moved on and our two current Hondas are looked after by Cheshire Oaks Honda and MG nowadays, but I still feel a pang of regret and sadness pretty much every time we drive past the old Two Mills site.

  64. Mentioning Ford, work hired a Galaxy people carrier, a car I thought had been discontinued at least five years ago, but Enterprise had a 71 model available. Apart from some eighties superminis, I’ve never been in such an uncomfortable car with hard thin seats finished in a cheap black cloth. Also the ride was uncomfortable and noisy, and the interior looked poor. The Galaxy performed well, had essentials like satnav and climate control, but overall for what would be an expensive car, it was cheap and nasty and awful for passengers. I wonder when even a main dealer has stopped selling new Fords locally, if there is some kind of malaise in the company as its market share has tumbled and an earlier post stated that Ford is closing half its dealerships.

  65. From comments I’ve heard, Ford are classing the PUMA crossover as the Fiesta/Focus replacement in one car… not overly excited about that. My local Ford main dealer seems to sell more varied brands of used cars than used Fords. I never tend to see any new Fords on the forecourt either.

    • Fords seemed to be really good cars 20 years when the tie up with Jaguar and Volvo meant they were produxing well built, good looking and good to drive cars. Now many of their offerings are bloated looking crosses between SUVs and people carriers and the Galaxy yesterday was a complete let down with a ride like a van and a gloomy interior with hard, cheap seats. Give me a Mondeo Zetec from the noughties any time, one of the finest cars I’ve driven.

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