Jack Christie – CEO of Eyre & Co (Airco)
I was CEO of D J Eyre & Co. Ltd from December 1954 to March 1960. They were importers and wholesalers of refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and food mixers, under the “Airco” brand name.
In 1956 Douglas Motorcycles, who held the British Empire distribution rights for Vespa, offered us the NZ franchise, which was accepted.
At the time I believe Douglas were receiving the machines in CKD form from Italy, and assembling in Britain for local sale and export under the Empire preferential tariff.
Dean Eyre, my business partner, was MP for North Shore and Minister of Industry & Commerce during this period.
Retail resellers were appointed initially in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch & Dunedin, where we assisted in establishing Vespa Scooter Clubs for rallies and gymkhana, competing for trophies, which we supplied.
In November 1957 there was a change of government, with imports being controlled by “Import License” restrictions. In the case of Vespa we had to provide a 20% local content value, and achieved this by bringing the machines in from Piaggio direct in CKD form (local labour assembly), and manufacturing windscreens and carriers, as well as using tyres made by Dunlop. We qualified for our percentage! The machines were shipped from Italy to our assembly factory in Durham Lane, Auckland. The Factory Manager was the late Ray Marett, who became very frustrated if the Italians left parts out of a shipment, and they had to be airfreighted….it happened often!
Editors note: Dean Eyre senior died in June 2007.