The progress of Cowies from a corner shop selling second-hand motorcycles to a nationwide concern, amongst the most successful quoted on the London Stock Exchange, is the story narrated in this book. Cowies currently own motor dealerships together with service and parts facilities in 27 locations throughout the UK, an agricultural equipment distributor, a household name coach and bus operator, the leading car leasing company and a major finance operation. Yet the head office is still in the same row of back-to-back houses where the original shop was opened in Sunderland. This account is therefore a human story of the North East, with revealing insights into the development of the national economy and changing social behaviour over the past four decades. From the post-war years of austerity, the motorcycle boom and the arrival of the motorscooter in the early 1950s, the account leads on to the disastrous British motorcycle crash. The painful, but decisive, switch from two-wheelers to cars was probably the most crucial decision of many that Tom Cowie has made in his career.
The narrative is enlivened with anecdotes about the men and women who have played a vital role in the company's success, sharing in its disappointments as well as its achievements. It also provides insights into the UK motor sales business as a whole: the problems which have beset British manufacturers, the development of the market and how to succeed in it.