We had the pleasure this week to meet with John Blewett, Managing Director, who told us the story behind the success of his dealership, West City Auto Group, based in Central Park Drive.
Born and raised in West Auckland, John started work as a truck driver in his late teens. At that time, the unions were dominant in New Zealand business and this had a significant impact on John’s outlook to his working life. He realised he would only succeed by his own efforts and not as a right.
By the time he turned 20, he had his first sales job at Nissan NZ in the city where his passion for motors and machinery flourished. With a desire to learn and to progress within the industry, he moved back West, working for Frank Perry’s Perry Motors, a smaller organisation but with far more opportunities. Frank was a great mentor to John.
He stayed with Perry for 12 years, learned the ropes and decided his next step would be to set up his own business.
John bought Keith Hall Motors in 1993 and although the car yard was already full of Hyundai and Volkswagen vehicles, he contacted General Motors and requested a Holden partnership.
Back then, West Auckland was represented by Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford but not Holden. GM was reluctant to have representation due to the previous failure of two different dealers. West Auckland was a difficult area for the motor industry at that time, being mainly a dormitory city and viewed as having limited business opportunities, and it was felt that a dealer was not required. But after a year of negotiations, the deal was signed.
Then begins the story of continuous expansion, buying extra land to cope with said expansion, adding new brands to his portfolio such as Kia and recently Suzuki.
Although relatively young as far as a motor industry business is concerned (youngest Holden Dealer in Auckland by 25 years) John is proud of the service length of his staff. This year he will recognise 3 more staff completing 10 years’ service with West City. Some started their careers there and more than 25% of the staff have 10 years or more service. And December marked the first retiree from West City after 15 years’ service. He certainly values his people.
This year, Holden rewarded John’s business growth by recognising his dealership at a Group 1 level and that is a great achievement for West Auckland as it finally recognises the West as a major Metropolitan centre. Kia also recognised West City this month with the 2016 Customer Satisfaction Award.
“The great thing about business is the ability to push boundaries. Our area is still growing, we need to work with each other to change the ‘Westie’ perception and make this place a tight business hub in the future,” John said.
The man behind the business appreciates cars. He owns old Holdens, Buicks and VWs, and also has a few BMWs that he likes to race. “I enjoy motor vehicles whatever the brand and am lucky to be involved in a business that I’m passionate about,” enthuses John.
Although his son Ash is not involved directly in West City Auto Group, he is a director of the Motor Sport company West City Motor Sport with John. And with a degree in mechanical engineering, he not only appreciates motors, he races them.
On his own accord and without his dad’s influence, Ash Blewett has made a name for himself. Let the results speak for themselves:
1st Toyota 86 Championship New Zealand 2015/2016
3rd Toyota 86 Championship New Zealand 2014/2015
2nd Toyota 86 Championship New Zealand 2013/2014
1st Castrol BMW Race Series 2 Litre Championship 2012/2013
1st Castrol BMW Race Series E30 class 2011/2012
But wait there’s more… He came back recently from his first drive on the iconic Bathurst 1000 circuit in Australia. The 26-year-old scored the opportunity to compete on the 6.8 kilometre track as part of his prize for winning the 2015-2016 Toyota Finance 86 Championship.