March 2012 saw the opening of Smiths Honda in Chester, less than a mile from the Smiths other multi-franchise dealership Bill Smith Motors. The solus Honda showroom is set up by brother and sister team, Mark and Karen Smith.
It was their farther Bill Smith who founded Bill Smith Motors in 1959 - one of the most famous independent family business in the trade with Bill well known on the racing circuit riding for Honda in the late 50s on the first UK Japanese imported bikes. He raced along-side great legends such as AGOSTINI, SURTEES, HAILWOOD AND READ. Bill won many accolades none more impressive as the 1978 formula 3 world title. Those that follow racing will know him as a TT legend with 50 replicas to his name. The history of the Smiths in the motorcycle world let alone Honda is impressive, and today sees Bill’s son and daughter take the motorcycle business from strength to strength.
Karen has been involved with Bill Smith Motors since 1987 with brother Mark joining straight from school. Bill Smith, now retired leaves the running of the business to the duo, with Karen as Finance Director and Mark as Managing Director. Although business has always been very much a family affair, Smiths Honda sees Mark and Karen setting up the showroom separately to their Bill Smith Motors site.
Mark comments, “even though Karen and I wanted to set up the Honda business alone it’s still run very closely with Bill Smith Motors, with running both businesses, the aim is for them to complement each other and help us as a family provide the best independent multi-franchise motorcycle offering in the UK”.
Smiths Honda is further recognition of the families confidence in Honda products; The Smiths were the first to import Honda into the UK, thus the real original franchise dealer for Honda in the country. By the late 80s early 90s the company were helping smaller dealers all over the UK and Europe bring Honda bikes into their showrooms as the interest in the Japenese bikes was intense.
Mark and Karen’s father Bill was always sure of the Honda brand, not only racing on Honda works bikes, Bill was also introduced to Mr Kawashima, the Honda team boss who subsequently went on to become Honda President; who offered Bill the full UK consession in 1961. Business was booming for the family at the time but having to guarantee 5000 sales per annum and still racing full time they couldn’t commit to such a total, so in 1962 Honda UK was formed and at the 1962 Earles Court show sold 26,000 bikes! Bill was kicking himself but went on selling Honda at a great pace opening Honda shops in Liverpool, Warrington, Winsford, Rhyl and Bangor, with a Honda car garage at Two Mills on the Wirral.
The family have branched out over the years importing the first Kawasaki machines into the UK in 1968 (Kawasaki went on in the 80's to form Kawasaki UK). The families aim was for them to be a multi-franchise dealer offering customers maximum choice on and off road where possible. Clothing and accessories also became a huge part of the business and now Bill Smith Motors is not only the best in the Northwest, but is certainly one of the leading independent multi-franchise dealerships in the UK.
But, Honda is still where the family’s history lies, not only in business but in racing too and Mark and Karen have always been keen to go back into a business that specialises in Honda. So when Honda approached them back in 2009, the brother and sister team were very keen to open a new solus franchise and reinvest their families roots in Honda. So Smiths Honda was born and the showroom pays tribute to their Honda past with a special Smiths Honda history wall – not many Honda showrooms can do that these days! The economic climate has been tough but Mark Smith is confident that opening a new business like this in such hard times is worth the risk; Mark comments, “the Honda brand is the fourth biggest in the world. I feel that we do the job right in our Chester showroom, we constantly get praised in the trade for how we run our business with integrity and passion; were not here for a fast buck, and I don't think any business in this trade can survive that way, there's too much at stake with high performance vehicles, we believe in excellent customer service from motorbike and clothing sales to servicing and honest products. We were honoured that Honda approached us as their chosen dealer to take forward the brand in the area and were sure that pays credit to our commitment to customer service and longstanding history".
Smiths Honda Showroom in 2021 after full refit
Smiths Honda not only compliments the offering from their other business Bill Smith Motors, but helps the family dominate the Northwest with a reputable and very well respected family name in the industry selling the best brands. And although Smiths Honda is based in Chester, the motorcycle market is seen very much as a global market to Mark and Karen, they commented, “we surprise ourselves every month with how far afield our customers travel to us, we have this year already sold bikes to India, Scotland, Spain, Ireland etc. Having a strong website is clearly catalyst but having an even stronger brand name and reputable history is of even greater importance - we hope that the Smith brand will stand us in good stead for the new Honda franchise and market trials sure to come".
“Through the recession countless motorbike dealers including the biggest in the UK have gone out of business, but we have stayed strong and are one of very few family businesses still thriving in the trade. Our customers keep coming to us because when you buy a motorbike you need not just good customer care but excellent care and servicing – it’s totally different to buying a car, its specialist and with safety paramount, customers want the reliability of dealing with a business that's been going for over 50 years and won’t be gone 6 months after they've bought their bike" says Karen.
Mark Smiths product knowledge and understanding of the industry is unquestionable and has strong international contacts and a real passion for finding customers the right bike.
Karen has been in the family business since 1987 and is a force to be reckoned with, not only as a successful woman in business but is highly regarded in the industry and has a vast knowledge of all the best finance products available to her customers as well as a close eye on clothing in the sector. Her passion and pride for the business is second to none and her drive is sure to see the future of Smiths Honda in 50 years as strong as Bill Smith Motors.
Our history makes us stand out from any other Honda franchise in the country, we not only were the first ever family to import Honda’s even before Honda UK, but have raced them and have excellent knowledge of Honda products in direct comparison to rival brands on the market. We pride ourselves in service excellence and are a family business dedicated to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Our family name gives assurance to our customers that we are well established, sell honest products and will be here in the future for any further servicing needs they may have. We are the original Honda specialist and Smiths Honda is here today to provide not just that history of knowledge but the reassurance and reliability our customers want.
Name & Registered Office:
BILL SMITH MOTORS LIMITED
Registered Address: 30-36 Tarvin Road, Boughton, Chester, Cheshire, CH3 5DH
Company No. 00777008
Registered in England and Wales