The Chairman of Wales’ largest motor retailer has been honoured for his services to the industry with a Lifetime Achievement Award following a stellar 70-year career.
Gerald Sinclair was recognised in the 2023 Motor Trader Industry Awards at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel where he was congratulated for his outstanding hard work, dedication and achievements in building the Sinclair Group into the successful company it is today.
After first helping out at the Port Talbot garage founded by his father Bill whilst still at school, Gerald has overseen the fourth-generation family concern become a £600-million turnover business with 900 employees working in 25 dealerships representing 12 brands.
“I’m delighted to be recognised in an industry where I have spent my whole life,” said Gerald. “However it is not just me being recognised, it is the company and what it has become, plus the team who have worked in it and helped me over the years. I have been very lucky to have had some good people alongside me who have put in lots of hard work and shown tremendous loyalty.”
Born in London, Gerald was evacuated to Port Talbot as a child with his mother Elsie and sister Pat during the Second World War when his father was serving as a mechanical engineer in India. In 1945, Bill Sinclair demobbed and was reunited with his loved ones in South Wales where he set up a car repair business in Dan Y Bryn Road – a site that remains part of the Group to this day and is home to one of its six Volkswagen retailers.
“We lived above the garage until my father bought the house next door,” recalled Gerald. “There were petrol pumps so we all used to help out serving fuel and then, when I was old enough, I went to Margam Tech to become a mechanic. After I qualified, I was then employed by the college for a few afternoons and evenings teaching other young mechanics and apprentices, it was good money and I spent the rest of the week working with my father.
“Once I remember Richard Burton coming into the garage,” added Gerald. “He had taken a break from filming ‘The Robe’ at the time and was visiting family locally. He had bumped his car and I banged the wing out for him!”
When Gerald was working in the garage full-time he began buying and selling cars as a means of “growing the business”. He met and then married his wife, Kay, and she helped out in addition to her job as a secretary for a senior engineer at Port Talbot steel works.
Once his father retired and with Kay joining the business, the couple decided that they wanted to become a sales agent and wrote numerous letters to motor manufacturers. They travelled around the country buying and collecting cars to sell and it was one such trip which set them on the road to major expansion.
“One of my customers, Dr Rees, wanted an Audi. I went to Cardiff to buy it for him from the agent there and I realised on the drive home that the car was on a different level and that was the brand we wanted to deal with, so we wrote to Audi and became their agent in Port Talbot in 1973,” said Gerald.
Three years later and against the advice of their accountant at that time, the Audi Volkswagen dealership in Swansea that had fallen into administration was acquired, followed by openings in Bridgend and Newport.
“Undoubtedly one of the key moments in the company’s history came in 2000 when we were awarded the Mercedes-Benz market area contract for the whole of South Wales that resulted in us having five retailers,” recounted Gerald. “We doubled our staff numbers overnight and it was a big step but one that has been very successful for us – we have moved each site since then and built three, brand-new dealerships.”
The Sinclair Group’s expansion has continued ever since including over the border into England where they took over the Land Rover franchise in Ludlow in 2022. Their growth has continued this year too with the opening of a magnificent, purpose-built Jaguar Land Rover retail outlet in Swansea.
Although not involved in the day-to-day running of the business, Gerald remains Chairman and regularly visits the Group’s sites to meet the colleagues he’s worked with for many years. He takes enormous pride in the Company’s success and the fact that it has remained in family hands for almost 80 years. His sons Andy and Jonathan, who both started as Sales Executives, are now both Directors of the business. Gerald also has two grand-daughters working within Sinclair Group, extending the family involvement into a fourth generation.
“I’m immeasurably proud of what the Sinclair Group now represents – I can’t even put it into words,” concluded Gerald.
“Andy and Jonathan came into the business when they were young and have grown with it,” he added. “They have a strong team working with them to take things forward and achieve further growth and success, so we can continue to employ people and provide security and fulfilling careers in the way we have always done.”
John Kirwan, Editor of Motor Trader, presented Gerald with his Lifetime Achievement Award and said:
“Gerald has built up a hugely successful dealer group over the decades. He’s chairman of a family business with three generations on the books working to deliver the best possible service for customers in Wales, and, more recently, in England. His work for the community is long standing and I was delighted to present him with the award.”