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New driver for Prescotts

The third generation takes over at Otorohanga dealership Pat Prescott Ltd. Grandson Ryan takes over from dad Paul, who has just celebrated 50 years with the business.

paul and ryan prescott 18 of 19
Ryan and Paul Prescott are optimistic about the future of their family dealership and adjoining service station; they are based smack in the middle of one of the most productive rural areas in the country.

While the impact of Covid-19 has cost them tourist traffic across the Caltex forecourt, they lost just one new car sale as a direct result of the pandemic.

“And I think we’ll still get that sale a bit later in the year, it’s just been delayed,” says Ryan.

After 50 years, Paul is stepping aside from the business his father Pat established in 1958. The driver’s wheel is being taken by Paul’s son Ryan.

The Prescotts take obvious pride in the history and solidity of the family business, and its place in the Waikato town of Otorohanga. Photos on the office wall show the changes in the business and its buildings over the past 62 years. The dealership has been associated with Toyota since 1996 and Holden since 1983. Paul is disappointed his departure coincides with the loss of the Holden franchise.

“We have been named NZ Holden Rural Dealer of the Year five times – including last year. Those awards helped us to see the world because all the winners are hosted at big international events.”

Paul and Ryan say they are confident the business will cope with the economic downturn caused by the loss of tourism.

“The GFC was tough for New Zealand, but not so bad around here because the farming sector is so strong,” says Ryan.

“The farmers are pretty well heeled. If they are going to buy a new car in a given year, then they do.”

However, their Caltex service station was hit hard, with turnover down massively over lockdown, and now running at about 70 percent of its usual performance.

Ryan says, “I worked at the service station every day, right through lockdown, because I didn’t want to leave the staff to manage the situation by themselves.” He has changed the shelving arrangement to meet physical distancing restrictions, but at the same time, tweaked the layout so customers were made much more aware of the hot food and snacks on offer.

The service station is on the main route for people travelling between Auckland and Waitomo so Ryan is very aware of the need to make the most of the customers that stop off. “We have to do everything we could to increase their spending,” he says.

The early days

Paul was just 26 when his father died in 1977, and his mother had died a few years earlier. “I’d started working with Dad in 1970, in the parts department, and seven years later I was in charge.” There was more family involved back then. Paul’s brother Carl ran the tyre side of the business and later formed his own company, which included a factory for recapping truck tyres and the national distributorship for Michelin tyres.