A TEESSIDE motor dealer fought off stiff competition from dealerships nationwide to be crowned number one in the industry at the trade’s annual awards.
John Fearn, of deVries Honda Stockton, was named Dealer Principal of the Year at the Motor Trader Industry Awards 2007 - the Oscars of the auto industry - at which comedian Ronnie Corbett was the guest speaker.
The award was recognition for Mr Fearn’s efforts to transform the fortunes of the Stockton dealership into the second best Honda outlet in the UK.
Mr Fearn faced strong challengers from hundreds of dealerships across the country, each vying for the top title. Every dealer in the UK is eligible to enter the awards.
He said: “This is unbelievable. It’s not very often that you are voted best in the UK at your job.”
Mr Fearn was quick to pay tribute to his staff at the dealership: “It is an individual award for a team effort. There are 31 people in Stockton who did what I asked of them. At the end of the day, they listened to me and what I wanted to do. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The judges were impressed by his ability to increase turnover at the business by more than 20% in a year.
The key to the change in fortunes was a strong focus on delighting the customer with staff rigorously trained to ensure visitors to the showroom were given first-class service.
The impact was remarkable with the dealership achieving Excellent status in customer satisfaction interviews conducted by the manufacturer.
Mr Fearn collected the award at a showcase event in the Grosvenor Hotel in London attended by 1,500 people from across the industry.
Chairman John deVries and Richard Kirby-Brown, managing director of deVries, were also in attendance.
Mr Kirby-Brown said: “It is hard to overplay what a phenomenal achievement this is for John and for deVries.
“He has done a remarkable job with our Stockton dealership and pulled together the team there to outshine our competitors. This is a very deserving award for all his hard work.”
The deVries Honda group is a privately-owned, family-run business with five dealerships across the North-east and Yorkshire.
It employs 151 staff and had an annual turnover in excess of £55m in 2006.
Mr Fearn, who is now in charge of the group’s York dealership, was also named runner-up in the Most Improved Business of the Year category.