It is unclear why, in 1936, Alfred Edmeades Baker chose Naracoorte in South Australia as the place for a General Motors dealership. He had emigrated from England in 1912 with an energy and enthusiasm that was to become a trademark of this motoring industry family for the next two generations. Some say he chose Naracoorte because he saw his future in the ever-expanding rural sector.
Alf's visionary attributes did surface during the Second World War however, when he set up Australia's only Charcoal Bowser for supplying war time cars equipped with gas producers.
The war over, Alf's itchy feet led him to sell the Naracoorte dealership and the family settled in Albury where he founded the present-day Baker Motors Group. Post-war Australia saw a dearth in supply of most things, including cars. The enterprising Alf traded army surplus tanks and 4WD trucks which he purchased in New Guinea.
By 1946 Alf was ready for a move back into cars. He constructed a double storey showroom at the Olive Street site and set up residence in a flat above it. He included, for his comfort, a games room on the roof, containing a full-size slate billiard table. The now heritage-listed building showcased a range of Austin and Morris vehicles. Around this time, the forever experimental Alf bought a saw mill in Olive Street and a brick works in the nearby town of Chiltern, which supplied most of the materials for the building of the Mercy Hospital. During this process, Alf developed close connections with the Mercy community, joining the board and forming warm, if unlikely friendships with some of the nuns.
Alf passed away in 1958 and business responsibility fell on the shoulders of son John, who shared his father's love of enterprise, without the eccentricity. Aged 26 and full of fire, John Baker, or "J.B.", as he became affectionately known, threw himself into the automotive industry with a gusto and a savoir fair that would establish many friendships throughout his life, socially and in business. In 1964, John purchased the Chrysler dealership on the corner of Dean and Young Streets, another prominent site still occupied by Baker Motors.
Realising that range would be a key element in the future Baker Motors success story, John obtained licences to sell Mercedes, Renault and Peugeot products in 1977 after acquiring Honda with its soon-to-be-legendary Civic, in 1974.
With Mitsubishi buying out Chrysler Australia in 1979, Baker Motors gained a high quality Australian manufactured product to add to the Japanese imports in their stable. 1986 saw the arrival of the Korean car, Hyundai. The marque quickly became competitive and took the small car market by storm. At Baker Motors it replaced Peugeot as the firm's (and the nation's) most mispronounced brand name.
By the early 90's all of John's five sons had joined the business.
In April 1998, tragedy struck as John and wife Marg's lives were taken in an aircraft accident. The twin cities of Albury-Wodonga mourned the premature passing of this much admired couple.
Today, Baker Motors Group comprises three Albury-Wodonga locations with four separate showrooms and two service outlets. A true family business, Baker Motors Group is well positioned to offer the personal service expected by customers today - a fact acknowledged by Mercedes-Benz when they awarded us the coveted Dealer of the Year Award in 1997 and by Family Business Australia when conferring Baker Motors with the Third Generation Family Business of the Year award for NSW and ACT in 2006.
At Baker Motors Group we are proud to have served the people of this region for over 70 years. If we haven't met you yet, we look forward to doing so soon.