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Norwich, Lowestoft and Attleborough car dealer Dingles changes hands after nearly a century in family ownership

PUBLISHED: 09:45 14 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:45 14 July 2017

The Dingles Toyota showroom and garage in Norwich.
 Picture: ANTONY KELLY
.

The Dingles Toyota showroom and garage in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY .

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010

One of East Anglia’s best-known car dealerships has left family ownership after nearly a century, following a seven-figure acquisition by a Sussex counterpart.

The Dingles Toyota showroom and garage in Norwich.
 Picture: ANTONY KELLY
. The Dingles Toyota showroom and garage in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY .

But, despite Dingles Motor Group becoming part of the St Leonard’s Motor Group (SLM), staff have been reassured about the future of its branches in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Dingles, which has sites in Norwich, Lowestoft and Attleborough, was established in 1919 by George Dingle and, until the deal, had been run by third-generation family member John Dingle. The terms have not been disclosed.

SLM is also a family firm and managing director Ian Wakeford, the nephew of its founder, said he planned to continue running the Dingles franchises, which include Hyundai, Lexus, Isuzu and Toyota dealerships, with the same ethos.

Mr Dingle, who had been with the company since 1975, said: “I’ve known Ian Wakeford for some 21 years and I am confident that SLM will carry on the business in same manner as Dingles has for close to a century.

Places  -- A

Dingles Garage, Attleborough

Dated -- 1921

Photograph -- c10214 Places -- A Dingles Garage, Attleborough Dated -- 1921 Photograph -- c10214

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers and employees over the years. It has been a pleasure.”

With its acquisition of Dingles, SLM has gone from 200 employees to more than 350 and now operates 14 dealerships as well as repair and service workshops. The move represents a first step into East Anglia for the company, which until now has centred around the south coast.

Mr Wakeford said: “It is SLM’s desire to merge the two like-minded companies into one strong motor group for the benefit of all of our customers. We look to retain many of the positive processes that Dingles already has in place.”

SLM director Jason Barlow has taken up the reins at the East Anglian franchises.

John Dingle, managing director of Dingles Toyota, with an EDP Business award for customer care, at the new showroom by Norwich Airport. 
Photo: Denise Bradley
. John Dingle, managing director of Dingles Toyota, with an EDP Business award for customer care, at the new showroom by Norwich Airport. Photo: Denise Bradley .

Dingles reported a turnover of £36.4m for the 12 months to December 31, 2015 with a pre-tax loss of £455,734, Companies House documents show.

Ashtons Legal partner James Tarling, who led the transaction for Dingles Motor Group, said it represented “a successful exit” from the business for Mr Dingle.

“Customers and staff alike will be pleased to learn that the thriving business he has developed will live on; St Leonard’s Motors are committed to continuing the business out of the current locations and its long-term future is assured,” he added.

A history of Dingles

The news that East Anglian car dealer Dingles has been bought by a Sussex-based motor group brings to an end nearly a century of family ownership.

Here, we take a look at a brief history of Dingles Motor Group.

• 1919: George Arthur Dingle founds the company, initially with a blacksmith’s shop and then moving on to offer commercial vehicles.

• 1947: Nearly 30 years later, the founder’s son, George Henry Dingle, joins the company. Over the years he brought in Ford, BMC and Triumph franchises.

• 1979: John Dingle joins the company with just the Ford franchise.

• 1996: Dingles take on the Toyota franchise in Attleborough

• 2002: The Toyota franchise in Norwich joins the Dingles group.

• 2003: The Toyota franchise in Lowestoft, originally run by Gooch Motors, is taken on. Dingles Toyota moves to new premises in Delft Way.

• 2008: Dingles win the Subaru and Isuzu franchises in Norwich.

• 2011: Lexus’s Norwich service starts to be run from Dingles in Norwich.

• 2016: Dingles is named as one of the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain by the London Stock Exchange Group, in recognition of its rapid growth.

• 2017: Dingles, under the leadership of John Dingle, is sold to St Leonards Motor Group, heralding a new era for the company and its 140-plus staff.

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