Jack Barclay is the world’s largest and oldest Bentley dealership and is part of the HR Owen Group.
H.R. Owen is Britain’s leading luxury motor dealer and the world’s largest retailer in Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti brands.
This interview is conducted with Paul Westaway the Divisional Director at HR Owen.
Jack Barclay was an extraordinary man, can you please tell us a little bit about his early life and background and how he came to start his own Bentley dealership?
Jack Barclay typified Bentley and the Bentley boys as they were known at the time, from an early age he raced some of the world’s most famous Bentleys, particular in the three litre class. He raced at all the main circuits at the time, the ones we most recognise now are Brooklands and Le mans, he went on to set a number of world records during that period.
What set him apart from the rest of the Bentley boys was that he didn’t have any inherited wealth, where the other guys had unlimited funds he had to go and get a job to fund the racing lifestyle. He set up a business in the early days, however he wasn’t very successful and he also ran up several gambling debts that his mother eventually settled for him. She only did this however under the proviso that he focused properly on the motor business.
In 1927 he set up what we would now recognise as the actual Jack Barclay business in George Street London. This new business never stopped him being a racer however, that was part of the enigma of Jack, he was a racer at heart and in 1929 he went to Brooklands and won the inaugural Brooklands 500 in the 4.5 litre Bentley.
He typified the gentleman racer at the time but he was more of a self-made man compared to the other drivers he raced against. In that particular race, he raced at an average at speed of 107mph, which is quite something especially given the car he did it in.
We still hold the original sales invoices from those early days and they read like a who’s who of London society at that time. He always remained though a very approachable guy and he coined the phrase “Service after sale”.
What is your background within the motor industry and how long have you been Divisional Director of H.R. Owen/Jack Barclay?
Like most of the other people here, I am a car enthusiast or petrol head as it is often termed. I hold a degree in engineering from Imperial College, so I took a slightly different route in to this business. I graduated but I’ve always had a passion for cars and started in a BMW dealership. I worked through most of the roles starting with service adviser and worked my way upwards that eventually culminated in my role as Divisional Director for H.R. Owen.
Can you please give us a brief introduction to the key staff members in the dealership and their role within it?
Derek Bennet is the general manager, he has been with the group for 16 years. Derek works directly with Anita Krizsan, who is in charge of our Bugatti sales. We were voted world Bugatti dealer in 2013 in recognition of our sales performance. To be awarded this accolade and take the title from some of the other major cities around the wold is a reflection of the good work that Anita and Derek are doing.
David Fellows looks after our service business that is over in Wandsworth. We have over 100 employees based there. Jack Barclays has the largest Bentley after sales service in the world.
Shaz Alvi works with David as our service reception manager and he deals with our high profile and V.I.P. clients, he has been with the dealership a number of years.
Peter Pitt-brown a Bentley salesman based over in Berkeley Square, he has been with Jack Barclays since 1974. Peter is a legend within Bentley circles and helps to build continuity in that returning customers are dealing with the same person.
How has the recession affected business, is it significantly noticeable? If so, how has it changed the prestige and super car industry and what changes have you had to make to maintain sales?
I don’t think it has, if anything it has changed to dynamic of the business. What we have seen is some of the weaker players in the market fail to survive. This all comes back to customer service, if you provide a good service in good times, customers will stay with you during the bad times.
We have also been more diverse in our offering of products, we can now supply used Continental GT models from only £35,000. We are operating at a price point that is opening us up to a whole new market that we previously would not be hitting.
We have seen a lot of independent manufacturers being bought out/taken over by major brands over the years (Lamborghini/Audi, Bentley/VW, Rolls Royce/BMW) do you think this is the only way these smaller manufacturers are able to survive? Or is it more a case of it making good business sense not to have this happen? Is it leading to better cars as a result?
This consolidation has been good for niche brands. It has helped the brands survive, the sales volumes of these type of cars is low in comparison to more mainstream models, but the cost of bringing these cars to market is high. Having said that, the parent companies have allowed the DNA of these cars to remain unaltered and allowed the brands to keep their identity.
Have the relatively new players in the retail hyper car market – the likes of Pagani, Saleen, Koenigsegg etc. affected Bentley’s market share and are there any up and coming new marques that you are aware of that we may well see in the next couple of years?
When you look at these brands, they produce some stunning cars. However this does not worry us because due to the increase in the number of High Net Worth Individuals there is room in the market place for everybody.
What sets us apart with Bentley and Bugatti is the quality of cars that they produce. A customer can feel reassured that these brands will deliver a consistent level of service and performance. This may not be the case with some of the newer, exotic and sometimes highly strung brands of supercars.
Moving forward, what new models or technological advances have Bentley got planned to remain competitive?
This is a really interesting one for Bentley and this is where you look at the traditional Bentley brand and how it can reinvent itself. Some of the advances I obviously can’t talk about because they are embargoed. One I can talk about however and you have already featured it here on The Wealth Scene is the new SUV vehicle.
This vehicle will be coming in 2016, this new model will be important to the Bentley brand as it will open up new additional markets and sales volumes. We have all seen the original motorshow car, I have however now seen via a private viewing the latest version of this vehicle and it is fantastic, especially in terms of retaining the Bentley DNA.
This along with other technological developments will ensure Bentley can reinvent itself in the new world order.
Being based in Mayfair London, you must deal with some very wealthy individuals, without naming names, can you tell us the largest or most expensive order ever placed with Jack Barclays?
What we also have at Jack Barclays is an underground sales display area which holds 14 cars, this enables us to offer a very discreet service to clients who are sensitive as to whether they are seen or not.
And finally, as a man in the know so to speak, if money was no object, what Bentley model and specification would you drive?
Having had the opportunity to see how the car is built and drive one, it would have to be the Bentley Mulsanne with the Mulliner Driving Specification, in black with a linen interior. This is the sporty version of the model. I think the car looks stunning. One of the things Bentley has done is get Andy Green (who currently holds the world land speed record) to drive a Mulsanne on the Bonneville salt-flats. He was happily chatting away nice and relaxed with some beautiful classical music playing on the stereo whilst the car was gently purring along at over 190mph. This car is the epitomy of what Bentley is all about.
Images by RGB Digital Ltd