Six years after the most recent earthquake devastated New Zealand’s South Island capital, the opening of the new Porsche Centre Christchurch recalled Archibalds’ 100 year pioneering past.
Re-born Porsche Centre
Alexander J. Archibald was an inspirational pioneer in New Zealand’s early motor industry. Alex—as he was respectfully known—was a bold early settler who established his fledgling car sales business in the heart of Christchurch in 1918. Just 11 years earlier New Zealand had been granted Dominion status within the British Empire and so it was into a brave new independent world that Alex Archibald launched his motor engineering business. The Archibald family name and his fine reputation became Alex’s legacy as the company he founded prospered and expanded through the next 100 years, with the formal opening of the new Porsche Centre Christchurch and offices coinciding with Centennial celebration for the entire Archibald Group.
The Porsche showroom within a new multi-storied medical precinct was a timely tribute to the founder and the distinguished name that became synonymous with luxury and sports cars sales—both in the Canterbury region and throughout the country. The Archibald Garage was born in a wooden stable building adjoining a hotel on the banks of the Avon River in Christchurch, the most English of New Zealand colonial towns, with the premises bearing the grand title of ‘The Royal Livery and Bait Stables’. The transition from horseless carriages to internal combustion horsepower reflected the mood for change in a fast-changing society. The first car sold by Archibald Motors was a Model T Ford.
During the following century the Archibald dynasty would spread to streets surrounding the riverside, but never straying far from those simple foundations at The Stable. By the 1940s Alex’s three sons—Ray, Ian and Noel—were working with him to expand the company and as the years rolled by, Archibalds steadily grew to take in selling franchises for a selection of British and European brands. Ray Archibald inherited his father’s enthusiasm for adventure and one of my many fond personal memories of growing up in Christchurch in the mid-1950s was watching him racing a Jaguar 3.8 saloon at the Wigram Airforce circuit on his way to winning two national saloon car titles. While it was din, Ray also won two national saloon car titles. Rolling retirements for the founding father and his sons neatly coincided with the arrival of John Fairhall in the early 1970s. John gave up studying law at the nearby Canterbury University to begin his own accomplished career in the motor industry by grooming cars at Archibald’s riverside showroom. By the early 1980s John was the owner and Managing Director of the Group and under his guidance Porsche joined the Archibald stable of marques. Today, a mere 200 metres from where Alex Archibald’s vision began, the new Porsche showroom is a proud city landmark that underlines an ongoing commitment to rebuilding Christchurch.
‘Archibalds Porsche has been dramatically reshaped to capture Christchurch’s spirit of changed.’ John Fairhall
John Fairhall’s belief in the city’s future hasn’t been shaken by the devastating earthquakes of 2011 and 2012—and Archibalds Porsche has been dramatically reshaped to capture Christchurch’s spirit of change. With Porsche launching its all-electric Taycan later this year, General Manager Jarrod Clarke is already predicting high performance electric vehicles will provide up to 20 percent of Archibalds’ volume within the next two to five years and up to 40 per cent in the next five to 10 years. In conjunction with the Porsche showroom opening, which was attended by 200 friends and customers, John Fairhall has also instigated a ‘Drive for Good’ initiative to celebrate Archibalds’ centenary and has announced a donation of more than NZ$150,000 to local charity causes. The community spirit and support for Christchurch—first inspired by Alex Archibald a hundred years ago—continues to flourish today.