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Northern Powerhouse

Fast approaching its 35th anniversary in business, Thomas Hardie Commercials Ltd is a key part of the Volvo Trucks UK dealerpoint network and seen as the road transport industry’s Northern Powerhouse.

Thomas Hardie Commercials Ltd is the main distributor for Volvo Trucks and Volvo Bus and Coach throughout the North West of England and North Wales. The company operates a network of dealerpoints that are totally committed to delivering the highest standards of customer solutions and service excellence.

Founded in 1985 with two premises in Deeside and Liverpool, Thomas Hardie Commercials has grown considerably, by providing market-leading levels of customer service and support networks. Nowadays the business operates five franchised Volvo Truck and Bus dealerpoints that offer a full range of services. These facilities are complemented by a wholly-owned division in Chorley, Thomas Hardie Vehicle Solutions (THVS), that provides vehicle painting, fitting of hydraulic kits and/or other specialised aftermarket equipment and an all makes refurbishment service for trucks and trailers. Thomas Hardie Commercials also operates five vehicle maintenance units (VMUs). Two of these workshops are managed on behalf of retailers Iceland in Warrington and Livingston (Scotland). We also manage units in Wrexham, Widnes, and a unit in Wigan that works exclusively for Poundland.

Managing Director, Jim Murray has accrued a 21-year career association with Volvo trucks, firstly through a role within Volvo Financial Services in 1994 and then subsequent commercial roles at the manufacturer’s UK headquarters in Warwick, as well as nine months as Aftermarket Director at Volvo Truck and Bus London.

Following three years away from Volvo at The Turner Group, Murray took up an appointment with Thomas Hardie Commercials in 2011, as Aftermarket Director.

Murray was then appointed Managing Director of this dynamic business in 2014. Mark Cunnew, Aftermarket Director and Steve Wilson, New Vehicle Sales & Marketing Director, support this MD closely. The trio pride themselves on adopting a ‘hands-on’ management style that is both highly visible and accessible to customers and staff. Proof of the businesses’ progression has been affirmed following their success in securing several awards from Volvo Trucks UK, including the coveted ‘Dealer of the Year’ award for the years 2015 and 2018.

The recognition from Volvo is pleasing, but we don’t do it for awards,” declares Murray adding, “it’s all about delivering a quality service, to make Thomas Hardie Commercials the supplier of choice for our customers.” The staff teams constantly focus on the company’s four pillars of business: “Everything revolves around new truck sales, used truck sales, parts, and service. We work hard to strengthen our customer base and we have a great product to do so. In the last six years we’ve increased our customer numbers considerably on new and used truck sales,” Murray adds.

We work hard to make sure our teams of people are focused on customer demands.” The company currently employs around 370 full-time staff and Murray continues, “We are extremely dedicated to delivering an industry-leading staff culture and in turn be seen as a good employer. During the last 18 months, a leadership programme for managers has been rolled out to make them better at developing teams. There are plenty of technicians around, but the challenge is to find people who can handle the robust volumes, paperwork, and attention to detail that we strive to deliver. It can be quite a shock for a skilled technician coming from a non-franchise background. The pace of life here is fast and the quality of work required is higher by comparison.”

Murray expects his teams to take the lead and progress business levels under an easily accessible management structure. “A classic example of this policy is Steve Wilson’s recent purchase of a Volvo LNG demonstrator. That vehicle will give our customers quick access to this new technology and enable them to see, first hand, what it can do for their businesses,” he enthuses.

Trafford Park, Manchester is undoubtedly Thomas Hardie Commercial’s largest site. It’s also in the top five of Volvo Truck UK’s busiest dealer points. From a business activity level, Preston comes next, closely followed by Middlewich, Knowsley in Liverpool and then Deeside. Each depot offers the full range of Volvo Truck services and supports the manufacturer’s 24/7 Volvo Action Service international uptime support service. “Volvo Action Service responses are crucial, as are MOT pass rates. Three of our dealerpoints; Deeside, Preston, and Trafford Park have ATF lanes and our pass rates are consistently excellent.”

Thomas Hardie Vehicle Solutions (THVS) at Chorley has also proved a real success. “THVS has great strength and is an incredibly successful one-stop-shop for our customers. Between 50 and 60 percent of the annual turnover at THVS comes from in-house, Thomas Hardie Commercials generated work. The rest is external. We’ve also used THVS creatively to boost used truck sales by having them produce some unique paint jobs, and supply and fit hydraulic kits that attract customers looking for something a bit special, with added value.”

Thomas Hardie Commercial’s head office is located in Liverpool. Formerly based in the Knowsley Industrial Park dealerpoint, the head office/administration functions moved to new premises in Moorgate Point seven months ago. This has permitted a development programme to commence at Knowsley, which will focus on a roof renovation and an upgrade of the parts and service front of house areas in order to achieve an improved visitor-friendly environment.

For its 35th anniversary in business during 2020, Murray’s focus remains firmly fixed on his customers and staff. “Our desire is to remain the supplier of choice, who gets it right first time, every time. The company will continue to concentrate on our people, who are our greatest asset. Our investment in staff is important, as is providing modern working conditions and the best industry training programmes. Staff surveys remain a good barometer of progress and enable everyone to have their say. We will also continue with our bi-annual Staff Award Ceremonies that recognises individuals who achieve excellence in their roles.” Taking the Thomas Hardie Commercials brand to its existing and potential customers is a long-established presence at local truck shows, such as Truckfest North West and the North West Truck Gathering. “These events are great for product and dealer awareness, and we see a real mix of age groups visiting the stand. You just never know when you could sow a seed with someone undecided about their future career choice. We’re also investigating the possibility of depot events and family days, so there’s plenty on the go,” Murray concludes

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