It was the year that football came home; Dolly the sheep was cloned; and, Damon Hill clinched the Drivers’ World Championship in Japan. A little closer to home in 1996, Bowker Motor Group moved its Preston BMW dealership to its new location on Preston Docks.
Back then, the Bowker family name was already known throughout Lancashire as successful road haulage and logistics business WH Bowker Ltd (formed in Blackburn in 1919).
In 1984 the group had diversified with the award of their first BMW franchise in Accrington. Then, in 1988 Bowker purchased Kinders Ashton Garage Ltd in Preston – one of the oldest BMW dealerships in the country.
Eight years later, the Preston dealership relocated to the new purpose-built facility. And the gateway docklands location remains the group’s home to this day.
Paul Bowker, Chief Executive of Bowker Motor Group, takes up the story: “The move to Preston docks transformed our business. No doubt about it. It was an important milestone. It gave us a landmark location and became the catalyst for a new period of expansion throughout the county.”
In 2001 BMW awarded Bowker Group the new MINI franchises in both Accrington and Preston. The next 15 years witnessed succession of refurbishments, acquisitions and another relocation from Accrington to Trident Park in Blackburn.
Today, the group now employs over 300 people in ten dealerships throughout Lancashire. Six of the dealerships are accounted for by BMW, MINI and Car Centres in both Blackburn and Preston.
Bowker Ribble Valley and Bowker Maserati opened in Osbaldeston in 2012 and 2014 respectively. And those new dealerships were sandwiched between the Bowker Motor Group’s first foray into transport on two wheels: Bowker Harley-Davidson opened in Preston in 2007. And Bowker Motorrad – the new name for Southport Superbikes – opened in 2015, also in Preston.
Paul continues: “We enjoy building successful dealerships. And over the years we’ve tried to remain true to the entrepreneurial spirit of the family. If we can do anything to improve the service for our customers we will.”
At Bowker BMW the last 20 years have paved the way to the next 20 years. This year’s most significant car launches offer an irresistible glimpse into the future of motoring. They include the eagerly-awaited new range of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) including the BMW X5 xDrive 40e, 330e Saloon and the 225xe Active Tourer. There’s a new electric i3 with a range of 205 miles too.
Paul adds: “It’s incredible to reflect on how far motoring has advanced in the last 20 years since we moved to the docks. I think the next 20 will offer even more incredible innovations; with BMW right at the forefront of the most exciting new technologies.”