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The Bowater Motors Story

Bowater's: A history we are proud of, A present we are committed to,  and a future of which we are certain.

September 28th, 2020 marked the exact point in time that we celebrated 75 years, and 4 generations, in business. 

It was actually by chance we gained the clarity and precision in time around the exact beginning of the Bowater Motor Group's story. One day a local customer walked into the Bowater Toyota showroom with a newspaper clipping they had recovered from behind layers of very old wallpaper. Back in the early and middle decades of last century it was very common to line the walls of houses with newspaper prior to finishing off with the decorative top layer of wallpaper. Imagine our delight to be presented with such an important part of our own history. 

original newspaper clip

Times have certainly changed a lot since Raymond Bowater and his best mate Bill Clifford set up an automotive shop in Achilles Ave, central Nelson, in what is now the Wakatu Carpark.
They had hatched a plan back in 1945 on the ship travelling back to New Zealand after serving at Quadalcanal in World War 2.



A history we are proud of.

Nelson in September 1945 was a very different place than what it is today. 
The war was coming to an end and there was a certain readjustment happening as service men returned home. It is a time that is difficult to get stories of, even within families as there was a quiet resolve to "just get on with it".





"He started from scratch," says Raymond's son Rodney, who, along with his other siblings carried on the family business.
Rodney says he and his siblings were raised with a competitive spirit that saw them play sports all across the region and cemented the importance of having the company be deeply involved with the community.

Rodney, still chair of the Bowater Motor Group board, has worked in the family business all of his life, alongside his late brother Derrol. Now into it's fourth generation it is still very much a family business.
"we all made decisions that we all agreed on, and if we didn't all agree, we didn't do it. We have always had a close relationship as a family and valued that extremely over the years."


The standard Triumph franchise was obtained to get the ball rolling, and in 1951 we offered Armstrong Siddley as well, followed in 1952 by the Studebaker franchise.

The company expanded and over the decades obtained franchises for Nissan, Honda, Peugeot, Audi, Volvo, Jaguar, Rover, Landrover, Fiat, Volkswagon, Renault, Alfa, Panther, Hino, Lancia, Maserati and Leyland Heavy Commercial.

When Raymond Bowater retired in 1977, his son Rodney Bowater was appointed Group Managing Director.

The early 1990's saw a rationalisation of the company when the Toyota franchise was obtained and an era of focused franchises ensued, with Bowater Hyundai, Bowater Isuzu and Bowater Renault being added to the BMG offerings

The Bowater Group now delivers more new vehicles to Nelson people than any other company.

Bowater's is the company you can rely on for all your motoring needs; New and Used vehicles, Service, Parts and Finance.

Investing into the future.

The Bowater Motor Group is certainly proud of our past but it is the future we are focused on. That is why we have invested so heavily into the modernisation of our Bowater Toyota store in Richmond, and look to the redevelopment of other key components within the business. Sustainability has been at the heart of this project, with the building future-proofed for the next 75 years! Consideration for efficiency was a key design factor with a large solar power system, rainwater harvesting, an energy efficient thermal mass underfloor heating system and waste fluid capture and recycling capacity. These are just some of the features built into the large state-of-the-art workshop space, guest lounge and parts store.

Whilst the technology of cars may have changed over the last 75 years, one thing has remained consistent, our ability to properly look after the region’s automotive needs, and the ability to service and repair all makes and models. The Bowater Motor Group prides itself on being a family business, with family values at it’s heart. Afterall, we have been driving the Nelson Tasman community forward since 1945.