Born in Glasgow, Sir Arnold Clark joined the Royal Air Force as soon as he was old enough at age 17. He quickly rose in rank as he developed the education, self-discipline and leadership qualities which were to lay the foundations for his future career. He left the RAF in the early 50s as an NCO Motor Mechanics Instructor, the perfect preparation for a career in the motor trade.
He opened his first showroom at Park Road, Glasgow in 1954. Quickly making a name for himself as an honest and reputable trader, he was awarded his first franchise (Morris) in 1959. Expansion continued into the early sixties, with the purchase of another half dozen garages in and around the Glasgow area.
Arnold Clark Finance Limited
The group’s impressive track record was further enhanced in 1963, when Arnold Clark Finance Limited was established. Set up specifically to lend money on hire purchase to the groups best customers, its operations were widened the following year when daily car and van rental were added to the company's trading activities.
The expertise won in that field was to make the group a highly attractive contender for its next development – contract hire, when in 1967, the company won its first contract hire customer. During the next 10 years or so, Arnold Clark Finance established itself as pioneers in the fleet industry, and managed to grow its contract fleet at a time when local authorities and major companies throughout the United Kingdom were divesting themselves of internal fleet operations.
A characteristic business style
A man who is a great believer in the personal touch and attention to detail, also believes in a straight-forward approach to business. He doesn't favour advertising gimmicks, or high pressure salesmanship, or some of the more technicoloured fireworks of others. ‘There’s nothing fancy about what we do, but we do the simple things, very well indeed’.
Further retail expansion and innovation continued through the eighties and nineties, which brought along a clutch of new car franchises and saw the company expand from its West of Scotland base to have a presence in every major centre of population in Scotland. Indeed, the new millennium began with a triumphant flurry of activity as the company established 15 major retail facilities in England, as far south as the West Midlands.
The new millenium also saw the company expand its leasing operations into the South of England, when Activa Contracts was established in Milton Keynes.
Recognition in the community
2004 was a good year for the man Arnold Clark staff affectionately call 'The Boss'. He received a Knighthood in recognition of his services to the Motor Industry and his contribution to the Scottish community. Sir Arnold Clark also received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Master Entrepreneur. And in 2005, Sir Arnold Clark rceieved an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow.
The company has steadily developed a beneficial partnership with a variety of headline charities, such as, The Princes Trust who aim to support 4,000 young people in 2006. Together they hope to give young people a kick start into work and community projects.
In 2006, the Arnold Clark Group take over Harry Fairbairn - Scotland's leading BMW and MINI dealer group. Two record breaking dealerships also open: the Ultimate BMW Aftersales Facility in Giffnock, and Machargs - Europe's largest car showroom - on Glasgow's Clydeside.
In 2007, Arnold Clark’s subsidiary company, GTG, opens a new £10 million headquarters in the heart of Glasgow. The first class training and conference venue allows GTG to expand the portfolio of services on offer. This includes office and workshop based training, whilst maintaining first class levels of service.
Arnold Clark opens their largest and most ambitious new build project in October 2008. The largest Arnold Clark Motorstore, located at Prime Point Business Park, Junction 14 off the M6. Costing £12 million, the flagship store accomodates a staggering 1,000 vehicles, uses the latest green building technology, and employs over 200 new members of staff.
Looking to the future
The company now has over 160 dealerships and employs over 8,500 people. It is the largest privately owned motor group in Europe with an impressive portfolio of vehicle products and services. Sir Arnold Clark, as Chairman and Chief Executive, remains at the helm of the company which he built, and is now supported by an experienced Board of Directors. With an impressive portfolio of new car franchises, the company is set to continue its strategy of acquisition, expansion and investment in the community and the economy.
‘Promises delivered’ is the company motto, and delivering on promises is what makes the Arnold Clark Organisation the unique success story it is today.