With Alex F Noble & Son celebrating its official 80th anniversary this month, Nissan Insider today reflects on the enduring success of this dealership dynasty.
With 80 employees collectively comprising one of Midlothian’s largest workforces, this family-owned business has become a highly recognised and trusted brand, thanks in part to a notable history.
Back in 1932, Alex F Noble laid the foundations for his automotive empire when he left an engineering job in Peebles to establish his own business, at Milton Bridge near Penicuik (pictured below).
Combining petrol retailing with vehicle sales and repairs, this nascent company began life representing the Austin brand, which at the time was blazing a trail for affordable motoring with the Austin 7 – fondly known as the ‘baby’ Austin. The ensuing affiliation between these two companies would endure for decades, and throughout the mid-20th century, Alex F Noble continued to grow and prosper as an Austin dealership.
The success of Alex F Noble & Son can be partly attributed to its continuity of ownership and proud family heritage. Alex’s son William joined the business in 1956 and the family dynasty was maintained in the late 1970s when, at aged 16, William’s three sons, David, Colin and Michael became third-generation employees of the company bearing their name, and when their father retired in 1988, the brothers took over the running of the business.
Their ambition and drive would subsequently elevate the Noble brand to heights their grandfather would have been truly proud of.
By the time the brothers became joint proprietors of Alex F Noble & Son, the Austin brand had undergone a number of name changes. Throughout the BMC and British Leyland eras, Alex F Noble had remained Midlothian’s leading proprietor of its products, and in 1978, the purchase of a former Morris franchise in Penicuik further expanded Noble’s presence.
Continuing to flourish
Originally known by the grand title of the Alexander Hay Royal Hotel Garage, Noble quickly rebranded the company as A Hay of Penicuik, trading in general repairs and servicing. In 1982, Hays of Penicuik relocated to Eastfield Industrial Estate, in the same year that Alex F Noble also acquired the local Angle Park Garage, which trades to this day as a fast-fit tyre and battery outlet.
The seeds of Alex F Noble’s current identity were sown in 1996, when the company acquired the Subaru and Isuzu franchise. This enterprise was based in a former supermarket on Penicuik’s Edinburgh Road, and its highly visible showroom continues to flourish today.
The new franchise was represented under the AF Noble & Son title, as the main Subaru and Isuzu dealership for Edinburgh and the Lothians and as it turned out, this would not be Noble’s final involvement with Japanese manufacturers.
By the early noughties, Alex F Noble had sold its original Milton Bridge site and relocated to an impressive purpose-built 15,500sq ft headquarters at Straiton by Loanhead.
Covering over two acres, this location was a fine setting for the MG Rover brand, but unfortunately the latter company was in terminal decline by this point. After decades of ownership changes and new trading names, MG Rover ended production in 2005, and Alex F Noble’s Straiton dealership was left without a manufacturer to represent.
However, while maintaining a lucrative trade in used car sales and vehicle repairs, the company was approached by Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd, which was looking to strengthen its local presence throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Pushing the boundaries
Following a brief rebranding of their Straiton site, Alex F Noble Nissan opened its doors for the first time on January 4, 2006. This was a particularly exciting time to be working alongside the resurgent Nissan brand, with the new Note and 350Z Roadster debuting alongside enduring favourites like the Micra and X-Trail.
Throughout its recent history, Alex F Noble’s owners have pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved and their determination has resulted in various innovations and accomplishments. In 2005, the Subaru and Isuzu franchise was bolstered with an impressive new complex in Penicuik’s Eastfield Industrial Estate, handling aftersales, servicing and bodyshop work.
By 2008, the burgeoning Straiton dealership had become Scotland’s sole Nissan High Performance Centre, after meeting a rigorous set of manufacturer-led criteria.
And in 2011, Alex F Noble Nissan proudly became the first car dealership in Scotland to sell an all-electric family vehicle, in the guise of the multiple award-winning LEAF.
Even commercial vehicles have played their part in the company’s success – the Isuzu Rodeo is a favourite among farmers and tradesmen, while Nissan’s range of light commercial vehicles encompasses the Navara pick-up and Primastar van.
Now in its 80th anniversary year, the company founded by Alex F Noble has become a cornerstone of the Midlothian community, as well as being a celebrated part of the Nissan, Subaru and Isuzu dealer networks.
According to Nissan Motor GB’s sales director Kevin Butler, Noble’s ‘fantastic achievement is testament to the quality and professional service David and the team at the dealership provide. We wish them every success for the future and look forward to another 80 years working in partnership.’