W.R. PHILLIPS HISTORY
W R Phillips Ltd is a privately owned and operated family Company having been in business in New Plymouth since 1946. Head Office is on the original site at 156-158 Devon Street West, New Plymouth.
The Company was founded by the late Mr W R Phillips whose previous involvement in the motor industry spanned two decades. He passed away in January 1981.
The Company’s first 50 years in business, 1946 – 1996 is well documented in the 50 year book produced by WR’s elder son Rex, in 1996.
In 1946 the Company was appointed a Todd Motors dealer for North Taranaki handling the Rootes Group product from Britain, Hillman/Sunbeam cars, Commer/Karrier light commercials and heavy trucks, Chrysler & DeSoto cars from America and then a few years later from Canada & Belgium to enable NZ to have factory built RHD vehicles. David Brown tractors from Britain and Minneapolis Moline tractors from America. Humber cars were added in 1953, replacing the Hillman brand.
For a short period in the mid 60’s the Company sold & serviced Chrysler outboard boat motors.
In the late 60’s the Company was appointed a Dodge truck dealer with product sourced from Britain and then Australia after Chrysler purchased The Rootes Group.
In 1971 Todd Motors secured the Mitsubishi Motors franchise for New Zealand and in the same year the Company was appointed a Mitsubishi dealer.
From 1972 – 1982 we saw major growth in Japanese sourced vehicles at the expense of the British, American and Australian product, and by the end of the period the dominance of the Japanese was complete and the British, American and Australian sourced vehicles ceased to be imported.
In 1973 the Company built a new Commercial Division at Waiwakaiho on the northern outlet to New Plymouth. The Company’s new Light and Heavy Commercial vehicles and Tractor sales and service, plus the Panel and Paint shop were relocated to the new complex.
1974 saw Todd Motors establish a NZ wide main truck dealership network with the Company being made responsible for Taranaki-King Country and Lower Waikato.
A decision was also made to relinquish the David Brown tractor franchise after 28 years and to concentrate on Heavy Commercials.
In 1978 a truck wrecking department was added and then subsequently closed 10 years later.
The 1980’s were a very busy time for the Company with staff numbers at over 80 and vehicle sales around 1000 units a year.
In 1987 Todd Motors sold their New Zealand interests to Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. With the change saw the demise of the Rootes Group and Chrysler franchises and we became an exclusive Mitsubishi dealer handling product from Japan, Australia and Malaysia.
1989 a major redevelopment was undertaken to completely modernise the Head Office/City Branch. During the renovation the Service, Parts and Sales team were relocated out to Waiwakaiho, with the Administration staff relocated into an adjoining building on Devon Street. The site was officially reopened in October 1990. Around this time Rex indicated his intention to retire.
In 1991 a decision was made to lease the Waiwakaiho workshop to 3 of the staff with a name change to Independent Transport Services Ltd. Commercial vehicle sales moved back to the City complex with ITS responsible for Heavy Vehicle servicing on our behalf.
1993 Rex retired after 42 year’s service to the Company.
1997 saw the Company establish a Used Parts Warehouse, specialising in Mitsubishi parts in a building at the rear of the property.
In May 1998 the Government removed tariff on imported vehicles and as a result the vehicle assembly businesses in New Zealand announced the closure of their assembly plants. All Mitsubishi vehicles were imported fully built up from Japan, Thailand and Australia.
1999 saw the Workshop and Parts departments repurchased back from ITS and W R Phillips were back in the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Servicing business. Several other major servicing franchises were also secured. The Panel and Paint business was purchased by one of the ITS partners, Wayne Gray.
2001 we were appointed a full sales and service dealer for Volkswagen cars. Vans were added in 2003 with utilities from 2011.
2004 we were appointed the Audi Parts and Service agent for Taranaki.
Also in 2004 the Company was approached by a local property developer to sell our Waiwakaiho land. This land would later be developed into what we now know as The Valley Shopping Centre. So in 2006, after 33 years the Commercial Division was relocated to newly built premises at Connett Road, Bell Block. Service and Parts franchises held included Mercedes Benz Trucks and Light Commercials, Freightliner, Sterling, UD Nissan, Western Star, Fuso and Detroit Diesel.
2008 we were appointed the Skoda Parts and Service agent for Taranaki.
2012 we sold the Heavy Commercial service and parts business in Bell Block to local businessman John Sewell. We retained ownership of the premises. The Company continued with Fuso truck sales from the City Branch.
2013 we sold the Bell Block site to John. Adjoining surplus land was sold to Symons Group.
2013 Neil Phillips retired from his Executive role after 61 years with the Company but remained on as a Director. Paul takes over the overall day to day responsibility.
2014 saw the purchase of additional land next to the Devon Street West showroom to enable the Company to rebuild the Head Office, Sales and Parts/ Service facility. The new facility opened in June 2015.
September 2015 Mitsubishi Motors NZ decided our Fuso sales support in Taranaki was no longer required and terminated our agreement. There ended our Company’s 69 year history in the Heavy Commercial business.
2015 sees the 3rd generation of the Phillips family take over the responsibility for the future. Neil’s son Paul, along with daughter-in-law Julia run the day to day operation which now also includes the 4th generation, with their son Ryan part of the sales team.
After 70 years of ownership the future of the Company remaining a family business looks assured for many more years.