Since opening in 2001 we have sold over 22,000 cars, saving in excess of £60 million for our customers
Forces Cars Direct, a car sales business based in Lincoln, addresses the importance of adequate support for Police Officers and what they aim to do as a business to give back to both current and retired service people and their families.
Leaving the police is a huge step for anyone who undertakes it. The nature of police work is immersive and unique. People leave the service for a number of reasons, but the feelings service leavers experience are common. What the future holds can feel uncertain; in terms of identity, employment and daily routine. For many, financial considerations are also a point of concern whilst leaving the service.
These problems are all something we aim to tackle at Motor Source Group. We are a business which exists with the primary goal of doing something which both recognises people who serve in the police for the extraordinary job they do for all of us, and helping them to overcome any financial challenge to them buying a car once they leave the service or while they are serving. We also offer our discounts to serving police people, but are very aware that leaving the Police can be a turbulent time, and are particularly happy to help our customers who are experiencing this change. Buying a car is a very practical step for many former and current service families and is a huge help to them in their daily lives. By making this purchase cheaper, we truly believe that we can make a substantial difference to the life of the whole family. We do this very simply: by offering discounts to service people and their families when they buy a car.
Our company was founded because of our understanding of the contribution police personnel give to society and because we truly understand the complexities of leaving the service. The predecessor to Motor Source Group, Forces Cars Direct, was founded in 2001, six years after our Managing Director Steve Thornton left the Army. Steve joined the Army in 1990 and served for five years in 4 Regiment Army Air Core, including in the First Gulf War. During his service he was posted in Germany, in Iraq and in Canada and participated widely in Army life. A number of things that he experienced during this period inspired Steve to start Forces Cars Direct, and later Motor Source Group. The most important, however, was his belief that those who serve our society deserve recognition for choosing to do so. He felt a brotherhood with others who’d given a similar contribution, and a strong desire to do something to overcome the challenges which he and his own comrades had faced when they left the military.
When he left the armed forces, Steve was confronted with a number of the challenges that many other service people and police officers face as they transition back to civilian life. Up until that point, the Army had been his main career, as well as a significant source of support – he was surrounded every day by like-minded people dedicated to a common cause. Steve had a long-standing interest in cars and so decided to take up work in the car trade. He found that he had a natural affinity for it – quickly becoming the top salesman at the dealership where he worked.
Another thing that inspired him to start Forces Cars Direct was that he knew there was a market for a good car retailer for those who’d served. Like many who leave the Army and the police service, Steve chose that moment to buy a car. He left the dealership having experienced poor customer service and with the distinct feeling that he’d been ripped off. When he later found himself in the car trade he was determined to find a way to help others who’d served like him to avoid having the same dissatisfying experience that he had.
Though he’d never been one to shy away from a challenge, the prospect of starting a business was daunting for Steve nonetheless. This kind of work was not something he had any previous experience of – and nor had anyone in his family ever started or managed one before. He was convinced, though, that his business model offered an attractive proposition to customers who were deserving of a reward and that the principle behind the business was one that was worth pursuing. This conviction, as well as the values of discipline, perseverance and problem-solving which he had learned in the army – was enough to carry him through the first challenging days of starting a new company. Going forward with the business, Steve knew the value of the skills he’d learned in the Army, though they had not seemed immediately relevant to entrepreneurship. He happily recognises these skills in others, and is keen to employ former services personnel for the value he knows they can bring.
Key to the success of the business has been our relationship with motor manufacturers. Our ability to offer a discount to our customers relies upon the manufactures themselves being willing to supply the cars at discounted rates. The concept was novel at first, but with a little persuasion the obvious value of the contribution to society given by servicepeople and members of the public services, proved to have a powerful influence. We formed valuable relationships with a number of carmakers who were more than happy to recognise the contributions of the Armed Forces and Police.
In the early days, the business started out by brokering tax free sales for servicepeople based abroad. Alongside expanding the business to serve customers living in the UK too, one of the most important parts of our expansion was ensuring that retired servicepeople could also be eligible for our scheme. We wanted our business to reflect the fact that you always remain a part of the public service community. We are now able to offer discounts to both current and retired police personnel and their families.
At this point the discounts we’re able to offer our customers are considerable. Because the prices are individually brokered, the exact amount we’re able to offer depends on the make and model. Typically, you would save £4,500-£5,5000 on an average car, however it can be up to as much as £10,000. To put that in perspective, since we opened in 2001, having sold over 22,000 cars, we have saved in excess of £60 million for the customers who’ve come through our doors during that time.
But we pride ourselves not only on the discounts we’re able to offer but also on the quality of service we provide. Knowing that leaving the police can be a disorientating experience we are keen to ensure that our customers have the advice they need to enter into a significant purchase like a car. We are able to give advice on all aspects of the purchase, including finance options. The experience of buying a car itself is changing, with options like Personal Contract Purchase – or PCP – giving our customers a greater range of choice than before, which in itself can be complicated and time-consuming to navigate. It’s important to us that every customer feels secure and satisfied with the purchase that they’re making.
Like any good business, we value our customers above all else – and we are always delighted when they recommend us highly. We have the advantage over other businesses as our customers have done something exceptional for their community. We never tire of seeing people who have given service going away with a car that will make a real difference to their life and the life of their family, as well as a saving that they can then use to help their family in some other way. While resettlement can be challenging in a number of ways, we are proud to be able to help police personnel in a small way to get settled back into civilian life.