Chances are that you’ll either have a Marquis Leisure dealership near to you, or you’ll have come across one on your travels, because it’s the largest network of dealers in the UK. Although predominantly a motorhome retailer, of the 13 branches stretching between Plymouth in the south-west and Durham in the north-east, five (Durham, Exeter, South Yorkshire, Suffolk and Surrey) stock caravans, too. An Auto-Sleepers Service Centre is also part of the group.
So, how did it all begin, and what is the company’s history? To answer the questions, I recently met up with Sales and Marketing Director Alan Buckwell at the company’s Newbury (Berkshire) branch.
Alan has been with Marquis since 2001, becoming Sales Director in 2009, then Sales and Marketing Director in 2020; he is passionate about motorhomes and caravans.
He’s also a huge follower of the American National Football League, to the degree that, when we made arrangements to meet, he asked me if it could be after 1pm as his favourite team were playing the night before!
A prestigious history Marquis was established in 1973 by two local businessmen (no longer involved with the company) at Lower Upham near Southampton. It began trading from
its current Hampshire location in 1979, expanding steadily since the 1990s to reach its current number of dealerships. The latest dealership to join the network is the Exeter branch, formerly Martins of Exeter, which was acquired in January 2021.
In early 2001, Marquis and Auto-Sleepers (the latter based near Broadway in the Cotswolds) merged to form the Auto-Sleeper Group (ASG), which in 2005 became part of European manufacturer SEA (Societa’ Europea Autocaravan) Group, whose headquarters are in Italy.
However, in 2010 ASG was brought back under UK control, following a management buyout by current CEO Geoff Scott and MD Mike Crouch.
In 2012, the French-owned Trigano Group became a minority shareholder, until September 2021, when the Trigano Group acquired 100% of ASG shareholding (coincidentally, Trigano Group bought the SEA Group in 2012, too). The Trigano Group is huge, with a current €3.4 billion market valuation. And that, in a nutshell, is the history of Marquis.
Currently, Marquis Leisure is an agent for Adria, Auto-Sleepers and Auto-Trail motorhomes; it also offers the Elddis-based Majestic dealer specials, as well as being sole UK importer for Benimar – including ‘vans such as the Benimar Tessoro 483 – and Mobilvetta.
Italian brand Mobilvetta has been hugely successful for Marquis since it was launched on these shores a few years ago: the models are tailored for the UK (with mirror-image conversions from the original European specifications), and have NCC approval. Mobilvetta models offer good value for money alongside a very high specification.
Alan is very excited about the new Mobilvetta models, saying that they are “fantastically improved with new layouts, Alde heating and new upholstery”. It’ll be possible to book private appointments with Marquis for viewings of these, such as the Mobilvetta Tekno Line K Yacht 59.
Parts and components
Of course, 2020 and 2021 have been the strangest of years for everyone. While many industries have suffered through the Covid-19 pandemic, the motorhome sector has really flourished. Most dealerships report either very little or no stock of used vehicles: as soon as they arrive at a dealership they’re bought by new owners.
New models are also stuttering off the production line, in some cases due to difficulty in the supply of component parts. I was told by one manufacturer that they couldn’t currently produce certain ranges due to problems obtaining parts from a supplier in mainland Europe.
So, what is the current situation with Marquis? Alan told me, “Our stock is changing daily. At this point in time, as with all dealers, we have lower levels than normal, but we are actively buying stock from all around the UK.
“We are able to move used motorhomes around the group for potential customers to view at their nearest branch, subject to a small refundable deposit. We usually display in excess of £35 million worth of [motorhomes and caravans], but the post-Covid boom has seen that figure reduce to around £7 million at present, such is the demand. ASG’s company turnover is in the region of £150 million.”
The future of Marquis Leisure
Over its 13 branches, Marquis employs approximately 450 members of staff in both full- and part-time roles.
As for the future: in addition to the arrival of the latest Mobilvetta and Benimar motorhomes, “Marquis continues to establish itself as the UK’s largest dealer network, and we’re committed to growing that network and portfolio of branches as and when the right strategic opportunities arise,” said Alan.
Finally, I asked Alan about the company’s USP, and what it is that attracts customers to buy from Marquis. His reply? “Marquis prides itself on making its exclusive ranges as ‘one ’van, one price’. This makes things very simple for the customer, because it gives them a high-specification motorhome at an affordable price.
“This policy reduces the complexity of consumer sales and the buying process by developing fully equipped and the best-value vehicles. Watch this space!”
Thank you to Alan Buckwell for taking the time to speak to us for this article.
- Looking for a hand with picking the right ‘van? Then be sure to take a look at our guide to the UK’s best motorhomes
Marquis Leisure, http://www.marquisleisure.co.uk, 0800 026 7777
- Berkshire Tel 01635 248 888
- Devon (Plymouth) Tel 01752 892 977
- Dorset Tel 01202 738 777
- Durham Tel 0191 492 2480
- Exeter Tel 01392 446 250
- Gloucestershire Tel 01684 296 222
- Hampshire Tel 01489 860 666
- Lancashire Tel 01772 731 313
- Northamptonshire Tel 01604 402 888
- South Yorkshire Tel 01909 495 900
- Suffolk Tel 01473 747 675
- Surrey Tel 01483 203 335
- Sussex Tel 01825 853 377
- Auto-Sleepers Service Centre Tel 01386 853 511
If you liked this, why not try these:
- See what we made of the Adria Van Win/Twin, as it got inducted into the Practical Motorhome Hall of Fame
- Find out how the Benimar Benivan 122 got on when we compared it to the Ford Nugget
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