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Wilsons is the largest family-owned car dealer business in the South of England and has been operating for over a century. They specialise in selling new and used cars, as well as vans and are solely based in Epsom, Surrey. Wilsons is a great example of how a family business can grow into a car dealer brand selling vehicles to people from all around the country.
The Wilsons' motor story started early in 1904. Howard Wilson and his wife were both driving instructors, his wife, Florence was actually one of the first-ever female driving instructors in the country. They had one of the first driving schools in the UK, which they had decided to start due to the interest and fascination by a friend about their "horseless carriage", which was their first car. Starting as a driving school back then was a bigger challenge than it is today, as there were not too many car owners at the time.
The company needed to adapt its service during WWI. The Wilsons were teaching soldiers from New Zealand and Australia to drive trucks in London to fight the enemy. It was after WWII when the company started changing its course as more people began to have their own cars. At this time, the business expanded, and Wilsons moved to a larger site in Epsom.
In 1946, Wilsons had the largest car fleet in the UK, and all of their children learned how to drive even from as young as five years old. Interestingly, in the 1950s, Tony Wilson took part in a road safety campaign in which in went to schools and taught children how to drive with the hope that the roads would be a safer place if children knew how to drive from an early age. It is quite unusual by today’s standards, but he clearly had a passion for sharing the joy of motoring and wanted to give children an early education about road safety.
In 1953, Wilsons became a Renault Dealer. Wilsons is the first Renault dealer in the UK that still operates today. During the following years, Wilsons extended its franchise portfolio and added more brands, including Fiat, Nissan, Peugeot, Dacia, Abarth, Citroen and Vauxhall. This was the decade of rapid development of the business and extended car fleet.
In 1958, Wilsons opened the first Global Motorhome Sales Centre. Thanks to this centre, Wilsons became a popular car dealer offering a wide variety of vehicles, inclusive of people with a lower budget as well. During the 1960s and 1970s, Wilsons grew even more and became the largest Global Motorhome Dealership. At this time, the company was trading with motor vehicles under the name Wilsons Motor Caravan Centre. During those two decades, Wilsons was selling over 2,000 motorhomes each year all around the country from Surrey to Brixton and Clapham in London, Bradford in West Yorkshire and Castle Donington in Leicestershire.
In 1981, Wilsons focused more on trading vans with the opening of Van Sales at 101 East Street in Epsom.
In the 1990s, Wilsons acquired Nissan and Peugeot franchises giving their customers more to choose from. They even attracted a few celebrity customers, including Hollywood star Steve McQueen.
In the 2000s, the company had its share of ups and downs. In 2002, the company acquired Fiat, Citroen and Vauxhall franchises. In the same year, it moved van sales to the current site in North Cheam. Tragedy struck in September 2003 when a huge fire broke out at their Renault showroom. Remarkably, they got the showroom back up and running just seven months after the fire. They even managed to keep all their Renault servicing, parts replacement and repair going by temporarily moving it to their Nissan and Peugeot sites.
In 2015, Wilsons received a new member to their franchise portfolio by welcoming Dacia and in 2016, Abarth also joined.
In 2018, Wilsons got the Nismo franchise and opened Load of Vans.
In February of this year, Wilsons acquired Alfa Romeo, Jeep, and Hyundai franchises which completes the family business for now.
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