TOM Vehicle Rental acquires Scottish car dealership

Saturday 10 January 2015

TOM Vehicle, the commercial vehicle specialist, has diversified into the consumer car sales market after acquiring Citroen dealer Alistair Fleming.

Airdrie-based TOM, which until now has focused on van hire, sales and fleet management services, continued its recent acquisition spree by purchasing the car retailer for an undisclosed fee.

It adds three car and van dealerships - in Ayr, Kilmarnock and Dundee - to the TOM portfolio, which includes vehicle rental depots Aberdeen, Airdrie, Broxburn, Nairn and Ayr in Scotland, as well as Manchester in England.

The deal comes hot on the heels of TOM's acquisition of two vehicle rental companies in the Midlands before Christmas.

TOM, founded by James Rafferty as an MOT specialist in 1991, added Leicestershire's Eurofleet Rental and Nottingam's Charthire to its portfolio under its strategy to expand south of the Border.

Those deals grew its fleet of commercial vehicles from 6500 to more than 8000, some 20 per cent of which are Citroen.

The acquisition of Alistair Fleming, until now majority owned by car salesman Alistair Fleming, takes the company into new territory.

However Mr Rafferty is confident that TOM's expertise in commercial vehicles can be brought to bear in car retailing, adding that customers would also benefit from its strong service ethic.

Asked what had attracted TOM Vehicle to Alistair Fleming, Mr Rafferty said: "Its reputation with customers seemed to be quite strong, and as a family business ourselves our reputation with customers and the service we deliver is what we pride ourselves on.

"It seemed to be a nice fit, and it also had some good territories we felt we could add value in and really push the business on in those areas."

"We're quite happy - it's a new adventure for our business moving into cars and retailing cars. We're quite looking forward to getting on with the new side of it and proving what we can do there."

Mr Rafferty confirmed the Alistair Fleming staff had all moved over to TOM, which he said gives the company a "strong platform" as it seeks to develop the sites it has inherited.

As a result of the deal the headcount at TOM has risen to more than 500 staff across nine sites. Mr Fleming remains with the business.

Mr Rafferty said the new sites would complement TOM's existing network - it runs truck and van dealerships in Ayr, Aberdeen and Nairn - and sees an opportunity to add a rental offer to them in time.

He explained: "I think that should be the model - where we have a site people should be able to come in and buy or rent from it.

"I would see us adding a rental operation to those sites in good time."

TOM plans to add to further commercial rental sites, in Dundee and Nottingham, to its roster in the first quarter of this year.

The most recent accounts available for TOM Vehicle Rental show that it lifted pre-tax profits to £1.6m in the year ended March 31, up from £1.3m, on turnover up 58 per cent to £98.5m.

Asked to assess the impact the latest acquisition would have on the firm's financial performance, Mr Rafferty noted: "We see it has having a positive financial impact. Financially our business is going from strength to strength [and we have had] record years in terms of turnover and profit. It should be a strong year ahead of us - that is what we are forecasting."

He added: "The dealership sites at Dundee and Kilmarnock in particular are sleeping giants and we will be doing everything we can to wake them up in 2015."

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