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Not a space ship in sight

In 1957 the USSR launched the first ever spaceship, Sputnik. And in the very same year John Wilkins decided to opt for a career in motoring rather than farming. This is good news. Now these two events aren’t linked in any way, however they both signify the beginnings of something very worthwhile. John Wilkins Cars in Cheltenham has been providing a ‘sales and servicing’ facility from their purpose-built premises in Leckhampton since those mind boggling days of the space race. They are in fact the oldest family run franchised car dealership in Cheltenham. It’s a testament to the way the business has been run that they’re still around to this very day offering a range of car products and services to the local community. The company is now spearheaded by his two sons, Stephen Wilkins (Dealer Principal) and John Wilkins (Managing Director). It’s quite refreshing to see a family business like this bucking the trend. By that I mean that most automotive dealerships these days are usually part of a huge PLC group. So in a sense, individuality goes out the window in a trade-off against the corporate machine. Not so at John Wilkins Cars. The family values are as true today as they’ve always been. The company has 15 employees with some of them tucking away 40 years of service to the family firm. That’s unbelievable in this day and age. It smacks of deep-rooted values in what’s right and what’s wrong. As a main Suzuki GB dealership the business offers a wide range of products; everything from new and used cars sales, through to servicing and accessories. In fact, John Wilkins Cars was the very first M.O.T. testing station in Gloucestershire. It’s really a one-stop-shop for everything Suzuki or Citroën. Servicing cars has changed massively over the last seven years, so much so that most manufacturers change the diagnostics at least every month, pushing the boundaries of technology and telemetry. Only main dealers can really keep up with this myriad of technical wizardry. “We’ve seen a huge increase in the levels of technology on the vehicles and it’s our aim and duty as a main dealer to ensure we keep up to speed with all of this,” says Stephen Wilkins. The business has in some cases three generations of customers from the same families returning to either purchase cars or to have them serviced. It’s back to the old adage of customers coming first. “We’ve always been in this for the long game. It’s a legacy that our father heavily instilled in us. For us our customers will always be the prime focus of the business. We’re adamant that they should be happy with everything we do for them.” The Suzuki side of the family business came on stream in 1995, recently seeing a good period of growth with their latest second generation hot hatch, the Suzuki Swift. This little beauty incidentally returns almost 64mpg. Much cheaper to run than a space rocket.

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