The first Kwik Fit centre opened in Edinburgh with rapid growth in the UK following – principally by acquisition. In 1973 the first centre opened in Holland. By 1999, Kwik Fit had acquired a further 570 centres on mainland Europe through the acquisition of Speedy in France and Pit Stop centres in Germany. These companies are also specialists in exhausts, brakes, suspension, tyre and lubrication services.
In an industry that relies largely on self-regulation, the Kwik Fit Code of Practice was a unique initiative that is still practised today. Launched in 1981, the nine-point Code covers the service experience the customer can expect from our centres. In 1996 a continuous research programme started that involves calling 8,000 customers every day, within 48 hours of their visit to a Kwik Fit centre, to ask about the service received.
Kwik Fit was one of the first retailers to introduce an integrated stock and sales system. Linked to suppliers Kwik Fit’s Management Action Terminals were introduced into all centres in 1981 and allowed automatic re-ordering and replenishment of stock. Further enhancements followed and a multi-million pound investment in touch screen technology was launched in 2002. On-line catalogues, customer history and easier stock search facilities have all helped improve the customer service in centres.
The famous ‘You can’t get better than a Kwik Fit fitter’ commercials were first shown on TV in 1984. Five different commercials were made in this series with the last being shown on TV in 1989. The equivalent of £10m was invested in this campaign over 5 years. The ‘dancing fitters’, rhyming couplets and now familiar music jingle all helped to make Kwik Fit a household name with levels of prompted awareness reaching more than 80% for the first time in 1985.
Recognising the importance of providing motorists with a choice beyond Kwik Fit, in 1984, 16 centres were acquired in Scotland and renamed ‘Budget Tyres and Exhausts’. Further local acquisitions followed with Charlie Browns, Chessington Tyres, Ebley, Humphries Tyre Sales and Autospeed all being added to the network in the period 1995- 1997. They continue to trade under their own local identity whilst benefiting from centralised Group buying, logistics, IT, finance and administrative support.
Kwik Fit Fleet was formed in 1986 to serve the specialist needs of the company car driver. Using Kwik Fit’s network of centres and Kwik Fit Mobile’s fleet of mobile tyre fitting vehicles they are responsible for maintaining more than two million vehicles. Clients include GE Fleet Services, HBOS and PHH Vehicle Management Services with many contract hire and fleet management organisations also listing Kwik Fit Fleet as their preferred or sole supplier. In 1996 the Business Drive Card was launched for fleets of less than 25 vehicles and in 1997 the Fleet Tyre Management Programme was introduced. This enabled fleet customers to outsource their vehicle tyre maintenance for a negotiated fee per vehicle.
In 1990, Kwik Fit achieved a National Training Award. This was followed in 1991 with the launch of the Kwik Fit Apprenticeship Programme. Further training modules were added ensuring that trainees could achieve City and Guilds qualifications in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair. All training is carried out at one of Kwik Fit’s five training centres, the first of which was opened in 1981. This commitment was also recognised when Kwik Fit received the ‘Investor in People’ Award in 1993. From 1999 Kwik Fit has participated in The Government’s Modern Apprenticeship Scheme.
In 1995 Kwik Fit Insurance Services was launched and offers Kwik Fit branded motor insurance on behalf of a panel of leading insurance companies. All policyholders receive and AutoSave Card that entitles them to preferential discounts across the Kwik Fit Group. With more than 300,000 policy holders recent expansion has included the addition of pet insurance, personal cover, home and travel insurance to the range. Renamed Kwik Fit Financial Services in 2004, it was recently voted one of the top companies to work for in the UK in a Sunday Times survey.
In June 1999, The Ford Motor Company acquired the Kwik Fit Group for more than $1billion. A decision by Ford to concentrate on its core business led to the sale of Kwik Fit to CVC Capital Partners in 2002. CVC Capital Partners are a leading private equity provider in the UK and Continental Europe.
Kwik Fit has received more than 50 business and customer service awards. These have included the Institute of Transport Management’s Millennium Award for service to the transport industry, the National Insurance Age Award for the Best Insurance Company in the UK for Customer Service, The Daily Telegraph Award for Customer Service and the BT Special Award for the best use of telemarketing in providing customer care. Most recently, Kwik Fit was voted ‘Best Fast Fit’ company for the 11th year in succession in the 2004 Fleet Excellence Awards.
In 2005 Kwik Fit was acquired by PAI partners, a leading private equity company based in Paris. The company embarked on a successful ‘Strategy for Growth’ which saw diversification into new product areas such as MOT and servicing provision. During this period the Group sold its German subsidiary Pit-Stop and also sold Kwik Fit Financial Services to Fortis UK.
In June 2011 Itochu completed the acquisition of Kwik Fit. ITOCHU was founded in 1858 and has evolved and grown into one of Japan’s leading trading companies. With approximately 130 bases in 68 countries, ITOCHU is engaged in domestic trading, import/export, and overseas trading of various products such as textile, information and communications technology, machinery, energy, metals, minerals, chemicals, forest products, general merchandise, food, construction, realty, finance, insurance, and logistics services, as well as business investment in Japan and overseas.
ITOCHU and its subsidiaries operate various tyre-related businesses globally. In the UK, ITOCHU operates Stapletons (Tyre Services) Ltd based in Letchworth Garden City, a leading wholesaler, which also has its own retail network with 110 service points, the fourth largest number of outlets in the UK.