Interview: Leven Car Company29 | 09 | 2016

    It may be a family business, but Leven Car Company is guided by one of Scotland’s most pioneering men in the industry, Hugh McMahon, and his son Chris. Jim McGill hears how they plan to invest £1.2m to create one of the largest Aston Martin dealerships in the world; how they are already a European leader in Rolls Royce sales; and how they plan to become Scotland’s ‘go-to’ Automotive Concierge

    TWO SITES; TWO prestigious global brands; two Scots family members and two unified objectives; to build “one of the largest Aston Martin showrooms in the world” and create “the most interesting site in Scotland, if not the whole of the UK”. You certainly can’t question the belief and commitment of father and son, Hugh and Chris McMahon.

    Joint managing directors of The Leven Car Company, the McMahons are overseeing a rapid and comprehensive restructuring of their Edinburgh business, which not only includes Aston Martin, but also Rolls Royce. Plus a new prestigious site selling pre-owned supercars.

    But first, let’s rewind just a bit. Hugh McMahon was the mastermind behind the Lomond Audi Group which he founded in 1998. Eventually running four sites — including Glasgow and Edinburgh —  he accepted an offer to sell the business, with a turnover of £200 million and staff of 500 people, to Lookers plc in 2012.

    Two years later, in April 2014, Hugh, along with Chris and Brian Ritchie (below, left), a finance director who had worked previously at Lomond, bought the property and assets of the Murray Group at Edinburgh’s Sighthill, and were granted the franchise for Rolls Royce Motor Cars for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Aston Martin for Scotland. At that moment, the Leven Car Company was born.

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    Fast-forward to today, and it’s a time of further change and expansion. The opening of its new 40-car showroom at one of Scotland’s most iconic car dealership buildings — One Corstorphine Road, in Edinburgh, which previously housed Eastern Western BMW — will see Rolls Royce relocate to share the the footprint with pre-owned supercars including Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini.

    And while the supercars space is already operational, work has just started on a £200,000 redevelopment and corporate branding of the 25% of the dealership which will house Rolls Royce.

    “One Corstorphine Road will hold between 40-45 cars comfortably, including Rolls Royce,” Chris McMahon explained. “I think we’ll have about seven new Rolls Royce cars on display, probably 10 pre-owned Rolls Royces, and around 25 premium pre-owned supercars. 

    “Interestingly, the building was a Rolls Royce dealership in the Sixties and Seventies. To move Rolls Royce back into, what in my view is the best showroom in Scotland — in terms of traffic, the ambience of the building and premium location, plus the fact it’s close to Murrayfield — is unbeatable.

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    “It also allows us to expand our other premium niche business, which is the biggest opportunity we have to grow the company, simply because we are so restricted on the number of new Aston Martins and Rolls Royce cars we can get due to the restricted build numbers.”

    By moving Rolls Royce out of Bankhead Drive showroom at Sighthill, the facility will now become solely Aston Martin. Coinciding with the launch of the new £155,000 DB11, the first of Aston’s commitment of one new car in each of the next five years, the McMahons have now committed to a £1.2 million redevelopment of the facility.

    “Aston Martin is perfectly happy with the facility we have; it’s just the fact that my dad and I aren’t,” Chris explained. “We know it could, and should, be better. The work will be significant, and reflect the fact we are the solus Aston Martin dealership in Scotland.

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    “Once work is complete, we believe it will be one of the largest Aston Martin showrooms in the world. It will have room for around 30 cars undercover, possibly more. We’ll have a brand new workshop with eight workbays, plus high quality washing and detailing facilities.

    “Customer parking will also improve significantly — it’ll be a high-end facility. The work will also allow us to expand the number of services we can offer directly to our customers — simple things like wheel alignment — that currently we have to outsource.”

    Already the DB11 has made an impact in Scotland, with Leven Car Company holding orders for more than 30 of the new Aston Martins, 25 of those before anyone had even driven the car.

    “There’s a lot of pent-up demand for the DB11,” Chris smiled. “People are desperate to drive this car; they put deposits down a year ago. The Aston Martin brand is absolutely adored by customers and as the last model, the DB9, was launched in 2003, the interest in the new car has been phenomenal.”

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    And it’s that demand which is illustrative of the growing interest in pre-owned supercars not only in Scotland, but across the rest of the UK.

    On average, Rolls Royce drivers will own eight cars, with most luxury car owners changing their vehicles annually. In such world, money isn’t the deciding factor on where the customer purchases their car — or cars — from. What counts is customer service, a quality the McMahons have always prided themselves on delivering.

    “To everyone at the Leven Car Company, all 31 members of the team, delivering the highest level of customer quality is paramount,” Chris stated.

    “It’s 10 times more important than the sale of a car. At the end of the day, we need to build relationships with our customers, to the point that we are their automotive concierge; we’re their car guy they go to when they need, or want anything to do with their car, or car aspirations. We won’t get to that level without delivering perfect service.

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    “We pride ourselves in our honesty, even if that means delivering bad news to our customers, as well as the good news. That philosophy is front-of-mind all the time.”

    Clearly the unified approach is working. In addition to the Aston Martin sales and pre-orders, allied to start of pre-owned supercar sales — including a trio of Black Ferraris — sales of Rolls Royce models are, how shall I say?, healthy.

    There’s been huge interest in the recently launched £300,000 Rolls Royce Dawn: so much so they expect to sell 18 by the end of the year.

    And by Chris’s own admission, “we’re big on pre-owned Rolls Royce cars”. As if to rubber-stamp that, Leven Car Company recently won the European Dealer of the Year for Used Cars.

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    “Which was great,” Chris smiled, “because we feel we really haven’t started yet. While a lot of Rolls Royce suppliers rather snub pre-owned models, we embrace them.”

    This all feeds into a growing, successful business. This year the company expects turnover to grow from £26 million to £30m, with the expectation of exceeding £40m in 2017.

    “We strive to do things the right way,” he continued. “That’s the way my dad created the success at Lomond, and it’s that philosophy we’re carrying on at Leven Car Company. It’s a simple approach, but one that needs total commitment from everyone in the team. We have that team, and now we’re focused on delivering more success.”

    Related: Exclusive — We test drive electric Rolls Royce 102EX Phantom EE

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    Jim McGill

     

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