Obituary: Sir Quinton Hazell

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The Independent Online
Credited as the man who broke the cartel of the motor parts industry, Quinton Hazell also changed the way automobile components were manufactured and sold in Britain in the post-war years.

At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s his company, Quinton Hazell Ltd, sold to 160 countries world-wide and was the largest independent supplier of automobile parts in Europe.

Previously, motor spares in Britain were available only from automotive manufacturers; they came in separate greasy bits of paper, often with the vital part missing. Hazell's product, a neat box containing all that was needed for a particular job, bore the Welsh dragon as a trademark. In the Far East they were known as "Dragon" products, and since the dragon was a respected symbol they enjoyed an ever-increasing share of the market.

Hazell also developed a chain of wholesalers, and whereas previously such outfits had been anonymous - windows painted over with green paint without and oily counters within - he insisted on window displays, well-stocked stores and tidy assistants. These changes, and many others, became accepted trade practice, and it was not long before motor journals dubbed Hazell "the father of the automobile after market".

Quinton Hazell was born in Burnage, near Manchester, in 1920, and attended Manchester Grammar School where he proved his sporting prowess as an excellent swimmer and rugby player. On leaving, instead of going to university, he chose to embark on an apprenticeship in a chain of garages owned by a family friend in Colwyn Bay. He was 18 when the Second World War broke out and was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force in 1939. Evacuated from Dunkirk, he finished his service as Battery Quarter Master Sergeant Royal Artillery.

During the war Hazell saw how the Americans presented their motor spares - well- coded and easy to use - and after demobilisation visited the United States to observe how their motor trade was organised. He returned in 1946 and, with the help of a pounds 5,000 legacy, a staff of four friends and his wife Morwenna, set up his own company to manufacture and sell motor parts. Growth was rapid and consistent. By the mid-1950s the company was employing nearly 800 staff.

Over the next 15 years the business continued to expand and probe new markets. In 1972 Quinton Hazell Ltd won the Queen's Award for Industry, for export achievement. The following year the company was taken over by Burmah Oil. Hazell found that life in a big corporation did not suit him and started to look around for new challenges. He took a stake in the Supra Group, a small company making sound insulation, under-seal and paint for the motor trade. A motor component side was added and, never one to do anything half-heartedly, Hazell began competing against his own Burmah-owned subsidiary, Quinton Hazell Ltd.

Outside his own business area, Hazell was well known in the West Midlands for his trenchant views on British industry and the decline of its manufacturing base. He also played an active part in public life, serving for many years as Chairman of the West Midlands Planning Council and being appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Warwickshire in 1982. He was appointed CBE for political services in 1978 and was knighted in 1995.

Peter Dighton

Quinton Hazell, businessman: born Manchester 14 December 1920; MBE 1961, CBE 1978; chairman, Quinton Hazell 1946-73; director, Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust 1978-90; Kt 1995; married 1942 Morwenna Parry-Jones (one son); died Barford, Warwickshire 24 June 1996.