Willis Motor Company was founded in October 1989 by Dennis Willis, trading from premises in Whitton Avenue West in North Greenford, and employing just three staff in those early days.
He signed up with ŠKODA Cars in May 1993 at the same time that Volkswagen UK took over the distribution of the ŠKODA range in the UK.Both VW, and Dennis, could see that with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, in particular in the Czech Republic where ŠKODA built their cars, there was the scope and high likelihood that the introduction of western quality concepts could very quickly turn what had been something of a laughing stock car brand into one that would combine VW build quality with Czech economy and efficiency.If that was a gamble on Dennis’s part, it was one that would succeed, hugely.
During the early years, the ‘range’ comprised just one car, the ŠKODA Favourite hatchback and estate, but sales grew as the motoring public began to appreciate the exceptional value for money, and better reliability, on offer.
In 1995 ŠKODA introduced a new model, the ŠKODA Felicia.Heavily influenced by VW, it was modern, stylish and again outstanding value for money.
By 1998, Willis Motor Company had established itself as a major supplier of new and used ŠKODA cars in the South of England, constantly in the top ten ŠKODA retailers.In September that year another new model was introduced.The Octavia range proved to be ŠKODA’s most successful product, offering a medium-size car at a supermini price, and it influenced a massive growth in the ŠKODA brand in the UK.Retail market share doubled and most dealerships had to upgrade their premises accordingly.Dennis realised that the Willis Motor Company would have to do the same, all the more-so when in the following six years ŠKODA introduced the Fabia hatchback and estate, and then the flagship Superb, a large family/executive car once again offering features that motorists were not used to getting for the price at which it was sold.
So, in March 2006, the company moved from North Greenford to South Ruislip, to Willis House, a brand new building designed by Dennis, located just off Victoria Road.The showroom can display 10 cars inside while the premises also has space for 100 used ŠKODA cars.Larger workshops feature five lifts and a MoT bay.The move saw the Willis team expand to 14 staff.
The following year ŠKODA notified Dennis that the dealership’s exceptional performance during 2006 in Customer Satisfaction, Parts, Car Sales, and Staff Qualifications and Training, had earned them the coveted ‘ŠKODA International Retailer of the Year’ award for 2006.
Another new model launched in 2007, the Roomster, a five-seat MPV, offering more space for less money that its competitor models.Used car sales have been one of the company’s major strengths and come the end of that year they were the largest purveyor of used ŠKODAs from a single site in the UK, with over 600 sales.
Although the recession brought pressures in 2008, ŠKODA took another leap forward with the introduction of a revised Superb range.With a revolutionary dual-boot system, sales outstripped supply in the first months of its introduction.
Over the next seven years, more new ŠKODA models were launched.First off was the Yeti, a very versatile 5-door utility SUV, sitting a lot higher than the traditional hatchback and estate ranges, a great addition to the ŠKODA range.Then in 2012, those who don’t venture much beyond town driving were catered for with the arrival of the Citigo, perfect for our metropolitan dealership.Though it’s small, the Citigo is cleverly spacious too.It’s been an award winner and has proved very popular with the Ruislip and Harrow public.
Hot on the heels of the Citigo was the fantastic Rapid, brought to the market in two forms, firstly a traditional 5-door hatchback, similar to, but a little smaller than, the ŠKODA Octavia and second the Rapid Spaceback, a well-appointed and roomy hatchback.
With Fabia, Octavia, and Superb models all undergoing makeovers between 2010 and 2014,
ŠKODA continued their knack of knowing what cars the UK motoring public want and, importantly, pricing them at a level that the public can afford.ŠKODA made a further excursion into the SUV market in 2017 with the introduction of the Kodiaq, and again trade was good.Meanwhile, a make-over of Willis House had taken place, to reflect revised ŠKODA branding and logos.
Another prestigious award was handed to the company in March 2018, when ŠKODA’s ‘New Car Retailer of the Year’ prize was handed over at a west-end hotel.The award reflected continuing high levels of customer satisfaction with the company.It was a perfect way in which to celebrate 25 years with the ŠKODA brand.The company’s popularity in the local community was also shown that year, as it picked up the Mayor of Hillingdon’s ‘Best Trade Stand’ shield for its product display at the annual Rotary Club of Uxbridge Auto Show.
Dennis and his management team have always been of the view that they should be giving back to the local community in a wider form too.For many years now, Willis Motors have been a sponsor of Harrow Borough Football Club, as well as supplying kits for Ruislip Rangers and Larkspur Rovers Under-10s sides.The company supports the long-running ‘Tanglewood’ club, a weekly meeting point for adults with learning disabilities.
A further SUV model was introduced in 2018, namely the Karoq, and again sales outstripped supply.2019 will see a red-letter day on 1st October when Dennis and his long-term business partner Mark Weir celebrate 30 years of working together.Before then, there will be an exciting new addition to the ŠKODA range: the Scarla, a 5-door hatchback will launch in May, and will be a direct competitor to the Focus, Astra and Golf, but of course priced at a level somewhat below these cars.And with ŠKODA’s first electric car due to hit the shelves in the near future, these continue to be very exciting times for Dennis and his friendly team at Willis House.