Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Previously in A Chequered Career …. I had travelled in the footsteps of William the Conqueror!...... when we put on a fashion show would-be models of various shapes and sizes would totter along a plank wearing creations from a local dress shop…….. One thing led to another, and we thought damn it, let’s give it another try! It was decided I should move to Winchester…….. I was interviewed not just by the dealer but also by Citroen themselves as they were to make a contribution to the very generous salary on offer. It was clearly meant to be, and a couple of weeks later I waved goodbye to Westfield Citroen and started a whole new chapter of my varied life.


The year was 1993. I was settled back with my family in a house on a sprawling estate on the edge of Winchester. My new job took me daily fifteen miles up the M3 to Basingstoke. Basingstoke's claim to fame is its forty roundabouts which are dotted at frequent intervals along its roads. Doughnut City they call it. Taxi drivers always complain that they get through a disproportionate number of front nearside tyres! Hadley 
Garages was a collection of individual showrooms and workshops dotted across an eight acre site alongside roundabout 37 or was it 38? Rover in one, Peugeot in another; Toyota and Citroen in their own. We also had a facility which stretched cars and turned them into mobile gin palaces, or bullet proof vehicles of state. And then there was the Fleet Sales Office and that was my place other work apart from my desk in the showroom. It was a somewhat uninspiring space with tiny windows and very little daylight. I shared it with a guy called Ian Abraham who was my opposite number selling Rover cars to company buyers. And then there was the lovely Julie who looked after all my admin. Our managing director was a large and imposing if rather quiet character called Barry Oakhill. Provided we did our jobs properly we had very little to do with him. My task was to look after existing company car buyers and to seek out and explore new avenues. We also had one of new-fangled mobile phones which we shared. It was a monster of a thing which consisted of a huge battery atop which sat the instrument itself attached by a curly wire. It was great just to take out into the streets of the town and pose as if making a call even if you weren't!

Hadleys was very keen on training and made full use of Citroens' training facility at their head office in Slough. I went there on many occasions and took part in interactive sessions on 'Selling the benefits', 'Closing the sale' and the 'Art of selling'. There was lots of role play, quick fire questioning and written tests. On one occasion we were required to sit in an office with a trainer on a one to one basis and close a sale whilst the whole thing was videoed. Afterwards we watched, as a group, everybody's efforts and discussed them openly. I had a streaming cold on the day and thought I'd made a complete mess of it, but surprise surprise, I got a round of applause from our group and my video went on to be shown to future classes as an example of how it should be done!  

I love a job with perks and this certainly had its fare share. For a start my largest customer was a company
called Standard Life. As their name suggests, they are providers of Insurance. Their headquarters was situated some distance away from me; Edinburgh in Scotland to be precise and one of the bonuses of the job was that I got to fly to that magnificent city now and again to wine and dine their buyer. He was probably my best customer and I fed him a steady stream of Citroen ZX’s all in bright red. And that wasn’t the only perk
of the job. Twice a year I had to select four of five customers and thank them by giving them a treat! Also, I got to choose which treat to take them on from a list of events and adventures provided by Citroen. They varied from sailing yachts in the Solent to paint-balling  and my favourite, flying lessons in Cessna light aircraft. We also held extravagant Fleet events whenever we had a new car to launch. These we held at nearby Highclere Castle, a venue now recognised world-wide as the setting for Downton Abbey. One such event, a three-dayer was hosted for us by Jeremy Clarkson and Quentin Wilson of Top Gear fame.

And then there was the launch of Citroen’s little Saxo model. Dealers from all over the country were invited to Birmingham to watch a lavish show hosted by Jonathan Ross. Eight cars, one in each of the colours
available appeared on stage either from the wings, from behind the audience or down from the ceiling. Each car had several dancing girls in colour-coordinated flowing satin gowns accompanying it. The whole thing was accompanied by the saxophone band, The Fairer Sax! As it drew to a close, the wall to one side of the auditorium swept back and the chandeliers came alive to reveal a French style restaurant. There were dozens of round tables and at the centre of each was a flower arrangement topped off by a saxophone.  My colleagues and I found ourselves sharing a table with Mr Ross himself. Whilst we eating, a fashion show took place. And that wasn't the end of it, because just after the boss of Citroen had made a little speech and wished us farewell, another wall slid back, and this time it had behind it an enormous crescent of Citroen Saxos, headlights blazing! Each dealer was to take one each back to their garage in readiness for the public launch a few days later; I drove home in N 53 SAX! It's funny that as many details of my past begin to get fuzzy, car registration numbers somehow stick in my head! It's the shame that my talent couldn't have been channelled to something more useful!

My goodness, I was really enjoying my job!

To be continued

Chapters  1     3   4   5   6   7    8   9   10   11   12  > 14  


  1. You are right about number plates and the ability to remember them. I suppose it comes down to the time that most cars were black sedans so the only distinguishing feature was their number. I remember Basingstoke from many years before. Before it became a satellite suburb for London in fact just after WW2 when we went trainspotting to the main line track there to see the steam engines. I rented a car there last year and of my Basingstoke there was no trace! Looking forward to next week.

  2. enjoyed another chapter. You have the ability to make your story more than a chronological event. excellent writing

  3. It sounds like a great job! Maybe I should sign on.