Northgate Vehicle Hire, the UK’s largest vehicle hire company, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011. Northgate Vehicle Hire

The company, which now runs a fleet of more than 60,000 vehicles from 62 locations across the UK and the Republic or Ireland and also operates in Spain, can trace its roots back to the launch of Noble Self Drive Hire in Darlington in 1981.

But, the FTSE listed Northgate Plc business is much more than a vehicle hire company as it has transformed itself into a one-stop shop fleet solutions provider with a complete range of services for businesses from sole trader to multi-national.

Northgate Plc, apart from owning Northgate Vehicle Hire in the UK and Northgate Spain which operates a fleet of more than 45,000 vehicles, also includes, specialist fleet management business, Fleet Technique, which manages some 12,000 vehicles, and used vehicle outlets Van Monster and Trade Sales Direct.

Crucially, Northgate Vehicle Hire has developed to offer companies a flexible long-term hire alternative to the more traditional vehicle fleet funding options of outright purchase or contract hire.

Called Norflex, it is at the heart of Northgate Vehicle Hire’s rental proposition and is contract-free and fully flexible. It also comes with a range of additional benefits such as telematics through the company’s own Vehicle Monitoring service.

Northgate Vehicle Hire Sales and Marketing Director Gareth Jones said: “Today, the company is much more than a provider of vehicles. The business is a complete fleet solutions provider giving customers a real marketplace choice with a range of added value products.

Northgate Vehicle Hire is the clear marketplace leader in the rental sector, but is also an expanding provider in the fleet solutions arena with a range of services that include full fleet management solutions, online fleet management reporting, occupational road risk management duty of care compliance and its own workshops for vehicle service, maintenance and repair.”

Although the company has a string of big-name customers includes the likes of the Royal Mail,, B&Q and Securitas, Mr Jones said: “Northgate is an unknown quantity to many businesses in terms of providing a complete range of fleet solutions.

“Therefore, as the company enters its fourth decade we will be continually aiming to leverage our knowledge and fleet expertise and broaden our customer base across all sizes of public and private sector organisations, but particularly in the SME (small and medium enterprises) segment. “Additionally, the company will continually look to expand its range of fleet solutions as new services are demanded by customers to meet their fleet operating requirements.”

Long-term business sustainability is the key for Northgate and that was underlined by last year’s decision to rebrand itself and the demise of some its competitors due to the impact of the credit crunch led recession.

Unlike many of its rivals, Northgate continues to invest in the acquisition of new vehicles. Last year the company purchased 18,800 vehicles and in 2011 the company will continue the renewal of its UK fleet.

Mr Jones said: “Fleets want stability and sustainability. The marketplace is undergoing tremendous upheaval but that is presenting increased business opportunities for Northgate. “The company is built on extremely solid foundations and is focused on continuing to make the right decisions that will see it offer services to businesses for a further 30 years and longer.”

The development of what became Northgate started with the launch by Alan Noble of Noble Self Drive Ltd. He subsequently acquired rental businesses in Stockton on Tees and Newcastle and in 1986 established Northgate Motor Holdings Ltd as the parent company for the three vehicle hire outlets.

A year later, Northgate Motor Holdings Ltd was acquired by Goode Durrant Plc, a conglomerate involved in several business sectors including the motor industry.

Goode Durrant oversaw a major acquisition of independent hire companies over several years and also established Northgate Vehicle Sales as a separate business for the buying and selling of commercial vehicles.

In 1996 the rental fleet numbered some 10,000 vehicles nationwide and three years later Goode Durrant changed its name to Northgate plc. In 2000, Northgate opened its first outlet in the Republic of Ireland and a year later opened its 50th rental location in Chester.

During the 21st century landmarks continued to be achieved and they have included:
The 2002 entry into the Spanish market with the acquisition of a 40% stake in rental company Fualsa, which operated 10,000 vehicles.

The same year in the UK, Northgate was officially ranked as the country’s largest daily rental company by industry publication Fleet News.

Van Monster, which sells ex-hire vehicles to retail customers, was launched in 2004 and in the same year Northgate completed the acquisition of Fualsa.

A year later in 2005, Northgate further expanded its Spanish business with the acquisition of a 49% stake in Record Rent a Car – the company acquired the whole business in 2006.

Also in 2006, Northgate completed the acquisition of major UK company Arriva Vehicle Rental (10,000+ vehicles) and broke into the fleet management sector with the purchase of Fleet Technique.

Further acquisitions followed over the remainder of the decade, including Hampsons in 2007.
In 2010, Mr Noble, the driving force behind Northgate’s early growth who went on to hold a variety of board positions, retired from the company.

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