John Pride, the man who introduced Toyota cars to Britain, has died of cancer at the age of 72.

Born in Clapham, South London in 1929, he joined the family motorcycle dealership, Pride & Clarke, in 1947.

Pride gained valuable negotiating experience as the buyer for Pride & Clarke, which dealt in motorcycles and touring accessories such as camping gear.

As time went on, however, part of the company’s expanding interests were linked with Skoda car imports. When his father died in 1958, Pride took over part of his interest in Pride & Clarke alongside his uncle and cousin and it became a public company.

In 1963, what at first appeared to be a setback when Skoda withdrew its agency proved to be a turning point for Pride & Clarke.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Acting on magazine reports about the resurgence of Japan’s motor industry, Pride travelled to Tokyo for meetings with major car manufacturers.

Toyota had already started to export vehicles (Australia and the USA were early markets) but Britain was still virgin territory. Pride established an immediate rapport with the manufacturer’s senior management and laid the foundations for a lasting relationship based on mutual respect.

“I understand the original agreement was made on a handshake,” says Pride’s son Jamie. “Throughout his life, if my father said something would be done, it was done – and the less paperwork the better. His business contacts knew that once he had made a decision he always stood by it.

“My father established excellent relationships with senior Toyota management. When I visited Japan with him later, I was amazed by the warmth of the welcome we received.”

Appointed sole importer and distributor for the UK, Pride shipped in 70 Toyota vehicles, mainly Corona saloons, the following year and displayed some at the London Motor Show at Earls Court amid a blaze of publicity.

At that stage Pride & Clarke was supplying Toyotas to former Skoda dealerships around the country from its depot at Lydden in Kent.

Sales were slow in the late 1960s, but from the early 1970s, when a redesigned Corolla range and the new Celica sports coupe were launched, sales increased and the dealership network continued to expand.

By this time Pride had introduced an advanced computer system to control the flow of cars and parts.

Pride & Clarke’s subsidiary Toyota (GB) Ltd grew rapidly and, in 1977, Inchcape Motors International, today the world’s largest independent automotive distribution group, successfully bid for the company.

The following year Pride & Clarke and the Toyota operation were split into separate entities, with Pride continuing as managing director of Toyota (GB).

With the added weight of Inchcape behind it the company went from strength to strength, and because of its consistent year-on-year profitability Pride was given a high degree of autonomy, ultimately becoming chairman.

He retired in 1987 as plans to manufacture cars at a brand new factory in Derbyshire were being made. A few years later Toyota Japan bought a controlling interest in its British subsidiary which today has a network of 220 independent dealers.

“It was right for my father to retire when he did, because he was always a man to control his own destiny,” said Jamie Pride.

“One of my father’s great strengths was an instinctive awareness of where to draw the line, whether in business or in personal relationships,” Jamie Pride added.

“He would bring gravitas to the party when required, but most of the time he did things because they were great fun.”

After retirement, John Pride moved from Esher in Surrey, near Toyota (GB)’s former HQ, to Bournemouth on England’s south coast where he could indulge his passion for powerboating and also made regular skiing trips to Canada, where his daughter lives.