Death of a great name

  11 February 2013

I don’t know enough about the car parts market to understand why Quinton Hazell called in the administrators; perhaps it was something to do with competition from manufacturers in emerging markets. But I do know that it provoked an extraordinary reaction from Auto Retail Network members.

We’re used to a high click rate on our News Alerts (typically over 1000 unique visitors within the first couple of hours) but mostly you just come to the site, read the story and then get on with whatever you were doing – but better informed, of course.

Not so, this time. Initial reaction was flurry of ‘re-tweets’, then the personal memories, including one correspondent whose Dad use to play cricket against a QH team.

There’s no doubt that Quinton Hazell was a great British brand; arguably one of the best known in the business. But it wasn’t until I started doing some research that I realised there actually was a ‘Quinton Hazell’. Indeed, he was knighted in 1995 and died a year later, aged 76, as Sir Quinton Hazell.

Sir Quinton was a pioneer in the post-war motor parts business. He created the concept of a parts kit – everything you needed to complete a particular job, all packaged in one branded box – and, in doing so, changed the way components were manufactured and sold.

At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, Quinton Hazell Ltd sold to 160 countries worldwide and was the largest independent supplier of automobile parts in Europe. But it is fair to say that it has had a fairly chequered commercial history.

In 1973 it was sold to Burmah Oils and then again in 1986 to the America firm, Echlin. It was owned by Dana Corporation from 1998 and Affinia from 2004 before being acquired by Klarius just over two years ago, in 2010.

Now, one half of the business, Klarius Emission Control, will survive. Quinton Hazell, barring a last minute rescue, will not.

If there is a moral to the story, it would seem to be this: deep-rooted affection within an industry for a brand is not enough to save it from commercial collapse. It is a moral we should try not to forget.

Rupert Saunders

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