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Nicholas Mee & Co quits London to keep up with demand from abroad

After joining the business in 1976, rising to sales director at the flagship Knightsbridge dealership and then going it alone in 1991, Nicholas Mee’s name is inextricably linked with Aston Martin’s presence in the capital. Indeed, of the 13 Heritage Specialists Aston Martin recognises globally Nicholas Mee & Co is the only one of the seven here in the UK to be based in London. But not for much longer, the firm confirming it is to leave its West London base early in 2018 and move to a brand-new location currently under construction in rural Hertfordshire.

At an emotional level it may have been said that when a man is tired of London he is tired of life, but in business terms the capital is proving to be an increasingly challenging place to sell and service cars of this calibre. And while the streets just a couple of miles east of the firm’s base heave with exotic cars driven by owners from all corners of the globe, the increasingly international nature of the classic car business has actually inspired the move.

You might have thought characterful locations like Mee & Co’s Brackenbury House showroom and nearby ’30s-built Brackenbury Garage are perfect settings for browsing classic Aston Martins, but it seems the growing customer base for cars of this nature – especially those from overseas – can actually be put off by a London-based location, traffic, transport links and other perceived inconveniences seemingly less attractive than the supposed glamour of being in the capital.

“This expansion is in direct response to the needs of both our clients and ourselves,” acknowledges Nicholas Mee. “The relocation to our new site will strengthen the company’s long-term position and plans, within an industry which has recently been valued to be worth £5.5 billion annually to the UK economy.”

At a practical level, commercial director Neal Garrard identifies a straightforward issue of a lack of suitable premises for an expanding business within London. Sure, there are flats and office blocks being built everywhere but selling, restoring and servicing cars demands floor space and the 10,000sq ft covered by the existing showroom and service facility simply aren’t enough. From a business perspective the decision to move was a straightforward one, identification of a suitable site that could be developed to suit the firm’s needs now completed and the work under way.

The exact location is currently being kept under wraps but, suffice to say, it places Nicholas Mee & Co within reach of a number of airports serving the capital and makes it a lot easier for visiting international customers. And once there they’ll be in for a real treat, given the new facility will be far from your typical glass-walled showroom or anonymous unit in a business park. “It’s a rural location,” says Garrard, “and a lovely place to test-drive cars. We want to create a relaxing environment where you can see our workshop facilities on site, get a feel for what we do and what customers experience when they arrive is key – we want to create a very British experience!”

SPEAKING TO NICHOLAS MEE

Owner of Nicholas Mee & Co, the Aston Martin specialist, on his planned move

I have been operating in London in one way or another for 40 years and, in recent times, it has become especially difficult to do business here. You have the congestion charge, you have traffic and you have the speed cameras. It means that many customers simply don’t want to come into London. That can be especially true of foreign buyers. Our move away of the capital can therefore be seen as a move into the future. It also solves the problem of attracting top staff – whether that is technicians or sales people, who tend not to live in London because of the costs. Plus, the new location is within easy reach of Heathrow for overseas customers.