Farewell Audi City

Walking down Piccadilly yesterday I noticed that works to convert Audi City to a branch of Metro Bank have now started. Having worked on the Audi project in 2012 I got to know Devonshire House well. Whilst this building probably goes unnoticed by busy travellers emerging from Green Park underground station, it’s a very imposing building, especially when seen from the park opposite. Next to the underground station lies the retail site in question.

The change of use to a bank brings to a close an almost unbroken use of the site as an automotive showroom, stretching back to 1924, when Devonshire House was erected. The first occupier was Rootes, a company formed in the early years of the 20th Century when William Rootes, a small-time businessman who ran a bicycle shop at Hawkhurst in Kent decided to add a motor agency to his business. By the mid 1920s Rootes had become the largest motor distributing company in Europe and by 1928, the largest in the UK. The Rootes Group was then formed by the acquisition of Humber Ltd, Hillman Car Co and the Commer Commercial Vehicles Company. Rootes was best known for manufacturing solid, dependable, well-engineered middle-market vehicles. Famous Rootes models included the Hillman Minx, Hillman Hunter, Humber Super Snipe and the Sunbeam Alpine. By 1967 Rootes had been absorbed into the American Automotive manufacturer, the Chrysler Corporation and ceased to exist as an independent British manufacturing group.

Between 1973 and 1990, the premises were occupied by Peugeot Talbot, although this was possibly a continuation of the Rootes company involvement as some UK dealership business remained under the Rootes name and sold Peugeot vehicles during this period. The retail space saw a decade of non-automotive use starting in 1990, when Canon established a showroom for photocopiers and printers before the space happily reverted to automotive use when Audi took over in 2001. Audi City was timed to open for the London Olympics and showcased Audi’s range through innovative, interactive displays.

Nothing stands still in the world of retail but it’s sad to think that over eight decades of automotive sales from this site are now at an end – or at least for the time being.