FOUNDER of the Snows Motor Group, Geoff Snow, has died at the age of 85.

Geoffrey Stephen Snow was the founder and non-executive director of the family-run Snows Motor Group, one of the top 60 motor retailers in the UK. He was the driving spirit of a flourishing motor retailer that now employs more than 750 people and proudly carries his surname on 35 franchises across Dorset, Hampshire and southern England.

Snows Motor Group was originally established by Geoff 55 years ago, in 1962, as an office supplies company in Southampton before he decided to enter the retail motor market 38 years ago. In 1979 he invested in St James' Toyota Centre, the first full introduction to the retail motor trade, with various franchise deals following.

From Hampshire to the West Country, the Snows group now represent the automative brands of Abarth, BMW, Citroen, DS, Fiat, Kia, Lexus, Lotus, Mini, Peugeot, SEAT, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen Commercial and Volvo, as well as seven used car outlets named Too Good to Auction, across Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Somerset, Surrey and Wiltshire. Locally, there is Snows SEAT Poole and Snows Suzuki Poole.

Born at Charlton, Andover, Geoff joined the Royal Navy as a 'boy seaman' just three years after the end of the Second World War, drawing a weekly pay of five shillings at HMS Vincent at Gosport.

At the age of 29 he fulfilled a desire to start a business, having had a range of jobs and competing in autocross races which fired his love of cars.

As well as the office supplies trade, operating out of a leased premises in Oxford Street, Southampton, Geoff's business interests included a ladies' hair salon and decor firm.

It was Snows Business Forms, a print manufacturing company he founded, which encouraged Geoff to try the motor retail market in the 1970s.

"My father was a pioneer in the retail car industry on the south coast with a belief that the customer is king, that if you get the customer service right every time then the sales will follow," said his son Stephen.

"We've seen generations of families buy from Snows because of what dad did, he knew the importance of making the purchasing decision process as comfortable as possible for the buyer.

"Car manufacturers soon realised that Snows was a family-run brand trusted and respected by customers of all ages and requirements.

"Whilst as a family we grieve, my father's legacy very much lives on in the company name and the pioneering culture he instigated and oversaw with his trademark driving spirit."

Geoff, who lived in Romsey, retired in 2007 and his son Stephen took over as chairman of the group.

Geoff passed away peacefully at hospital on August 23 from dementia-related illness. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joyce, son Stephen, and daughters Jacquelyn and Jennifer, as well as nine grandchildren and a great grandson. His funeral will be held today at Romsey Abbey at 10.30am.