Text size


Andy Barnes is retiring from the industry at the end of March, after 54 years.

Andy Barnes is retiring from the industry at the end of March, after 54 years.


From car-washing as a school boy to leading retail roles across the UK, Andy Barnes is retiring as Head of Business at Crewe SEAT, after a life-time love affair with cars.

Always with an eye for opportunity, as a school boy, Andy earned extra money by washing cars at a local used car dealership, and learning valuable lessons about how the presentation of vehicles significantly adds to their appeal. When rugby took precedence over studying, the grades to follow his first ambition into architecture didn’t arrive. So he capitalised on his motor contacts and began making a living “turning spanners”. During this time he watched closely the activities of a dapper Sales Executive, with his black velvet jacket and his impressive car. When the salesman went on holiday, Andy offered to fill his slot, telling his boss “I can do that!” And he could.

Andy excelled as a used car sales person in Chester, and he soon realised what a good living he could make selling cars. He remembers a special day in 1974 when he received over £200 in his “little brown envelope” as his weekly wage. And he can vividly recall the gorgeous e-Type Jaguar and Daimler Dart that he sold to achieve this magnificent sum!

Andy was having great fun in his role, and he took every opportunity to learn from those experienced in the trade, who, he says, did indeed sport the “camel coat” synonymous with used car salesmen in the 1970s. He wanted, however, to take advantage of the growing professionalism in the industry and joined a Ford franchise that specialised in fleet vehicles in the Ellesmere Port area.

Before long, the bright lights of London called, and by 1977 Andy was in Clapham selling cars for Datsun (now Nissan). In addition to selling cars he oversaw the petrol station attached to the dealership, giving him further opportunities to build up those all-important relationships with customers.

Promotions and advancements followed, including postings as Group Sales Manager in a family business representing Fiat, Mazda and Austin Rover and a General Manager position with Rover, before he made a return to the North West in the mid-eighties. This is when he first encountered Michael Smyth, now Swansway Group Chairman. Andy worked for Mr Smyth as a Sales Manager for RRG in Bury. This was also when he first met the now Swansway Group Directors, as John Smyth was a trainee Sales Executive, David Smyth managed all the petrol stations and Peter Smyth was at the helm at Toyota Bolton.

Andy’s path then diverged from the Smyth family for a while. Fast-forward to 2010 when a friend told him that Swansway Group’s Crewe SEAT dealership was recruiting for a Sales Manager. Andy says,

“I went to the interview in the boardroom, with all the Smyth brothers, and we had a lovely time reminiscing about the old days, and catching up together. And I left that interview thinking I have no idea whether I have got that job or not. But as I drove away, I got a phone call, and the answer was a yes! And so my fantastic time at Crewe SEAT began.”

Andy Barnes winning an Award

Andy’s impact on Crewe SEAT has been immense. His passion and enthusiasm for the brand is unmissable and spills out into everything he has does. For the launch of the SEAT Ibiza, he imported 6 tonnes of sand into the dealership, to create Crewe SEAT’s very own beach, and he had all the staff dressed in life guard regalia to complete the scene! Nothing is too much trouble for Andy. He has undertaken everything from face painting events to golden ticket extravaganzas, to name but a few of the enticing activities he has undertaken to delight his customers and showcase all the fun and functionality of the SEAT brand.

Andy is a true ambassador for SEAT. He says of the brand,

“SEAT make really impressive, accessible vehicles. Over the 11 years I have been at Crewe SEAT we have gone from selling 200 cars a year, to over 1100 cars per year, without ever expanding our footprint.

The SEAT UK team are brilliant to work with too. I can pick up the phone to the Head of SEAT and have a real conversation. And this warm attitude ripples right down through all the senior team members.

Highlights for Andy during his time at SEAT include: Dealership of the year in 2015, Top Sales Dealer in 2016, Top Aftersales Dealer in 2015, first class trip to Las Vegas as a result of top 5 sales performance in UK 2012 and multiple trips to Barcelona for the launch of the many New Models SEAT have added to their range. When asked what he will miss the most about his working life, Andy was very clear,

“I will miss the people tremendously. They are more than colleagues. When you work with people for such a long time, it has to be fun. And I run a very open dealership, where you do get to know the teams and share a part of their lives.

Secondly I will miss the brand and all the exciting innovations still to come. Whilst I am ready to decide on any given day how I will spend my time, I will remain a huge fan of the brand and will avidly keep pace with all their developments. SEAT and Swansway Group have been really good to me.”

John Smyth, Swansway Group Director commented,

“We have very much enjoyed our long-standing working relationship with Andy that has brought such success for us all. Andy’s personal brand of ambition and dedication, combined with his warmth and enthusiasm will be very much missed by all those who had the pleasure of working with him.

We would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all the Swansway family, to congratulate him on an extremely impressive 54 years in the motor trade, and for all his innumerable accomplishments. And of course to wish him all the very best for a happy and enjoyable retirement.”