Auto Retail Agenda: 21 May 2018

  20 May 2018


Cassels quits Vauxhall to join VW Group

Alistair Cassels, Vauxhall’s director of retail network development, has left the PSA brand to take up the newly created post of head of group network development at Volkswagen Group in the UK.

The move comes just days after Vauxhall informed its retailers of a restructuring that is likely to see around a 100 of its 328 franchises cut from the network.

It is understood that all Vauxhall franchise holders have now been told which of three categories they are in; definitely keeping the franchise, losing the franchise or under review.

Mr Cassels had been Vauxhall’s network development boss for two years and had been a long-time employee of Vauxhall having worked in several roles at Vauxhall’s manufacturing plant in Luton, before joining the network development team as franchise manager in 2002.

One of his last jobs at Vauxhall was to help Peugeot Citroen Retail buy Now Vauxhall out of administration at the start of this month.

At the time he commented: “Vauxhall Motors is pleased to have supported Robins & Day [Peugeot Citroen Retail] in their acquisition of the Now Vauxhall retail sites, ensuring a strong and sustainable future for the business and its employees.”

Meanwhile, Vauxhall has also lost sales and marketing director Simon Oldfield according to a spokesman for the NSC, who added: “His replacement will be announced in due course.”


Training boosts profits at Sinclair

A focus on staff training and customer satisfaction helped cars-to-commercials Sinclair Group weather tough competition and tight margins to record a profit growth last year.

The south Wales-based company holds franchises for the main German car brands and VW Commercials across several sites.

Profit before tax increased to £2.7 million in 2017 from £2.3m in 2016 as turnover rose to £465m from £439m.

Sales of new cars went from £243m in ’16 to £250m, used from £148m to £160m and repairs and other sales from £48m to £55m.

The workforce also expanded, from 772 employees to 801 during the year.

In its annual report the directors said: “The group undertakes significant training of its staff to ensure that it is well placed to provide a choice for customers, to ensure that they are aware of their options and are satisfied with the level of service we provide. The directors realise the importance of excellent customer satisfaction to remain ahead of the competition.”


Ford retailers targeting SMEs during Business Week

Ford retailers are gearing up for a new Business Week event running from June 2 to 10 with the brand’s business specialists targeting drivers working for SMEs.

Speaking exclusively to Auto Retail Agenda Owen Gregory, Ford fleet director, said: “Ford plays a key role in keeping Britain moving thanks to the volumes of its cars and vans driven by businesses. SMEs are a huge part of the economic engine that is GB PLC.

“Their turnover represents almost half that of the private sector, but still we hear that SMEs find suppliers and lenders hard to work with. As their car and van supplier, also offering finance from Ford Lease, we are making ourselves expressly available for local businesses during next month’s first Ford Business Week.”


Pentagon gets GCHQ cyber security for data protection

25-franchise group Pentagon Motors, bought by South African Motus Corporation almost a year ago, has gained Cyber Essential Certification for its data protection standards.

The accreditation is a government-backed scheme run in partnership with the National Cyber Security Centre (a subsidiary of GCHQ) and which helps companies to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data stored on internet-connected devices.


Classic car market may have topped

Classic cars have proved to be one of the best alternative investments of any over the past decade with returns of around 190%, outperforming wine, fine art and other collectables but a report by UHY Hacker Young, chartered accountants, suggests that money on cars may be harder to make now and that those buying several years ago have had the best of the market. Last year values last year dipped by 1%, a slight drop from the high of 2016.


Car brands second only to luxury sector on digital spend

Car brands will spend 39% of their advertising budget on digital this year, second only to the luxury sector, but analysts warn that on average UK consumers spend just 2.4 seconds watching online ads before skipping to something else.

But the study done by Marketing Week shows that even that fraction of time might still have some value with more than a quarter of watchers able to name the brand afterwards although the more that is watched, the better the recall. Up to 80% of an ad watched generates 74% of the value of one watched to the end. When only 21 to 30% is watched, it generates just 58% of the value of a fully completed ad.

The study says that digital advertising over all will grow by 4% this year and 3 in 2019.


VW exit casts doubt over traditional motor shows

VW is joining several other big name makers and missing this autumn’s Paris Motor Show with observers saying a fall in visitors, the cost and a format which no longer reflects the way people engage with cars is behind its decision.

Ford, PSA Group, Nissan and Volvo are among the other notable absentees at October’s event.


BMW looks to make double digit pre-tax profits the norm

BMW is targeting a group pre-tax profit of almost £9 billion this year and wants to see double-digit margins in the future.

Finance chief Nicolas Peter told a German newspaper: “We are striving to keep group pre-tax profit (margins) sustainably above 10 percent. For this year, that means a result of well over €10 billion (£8.77bn).”

BMW made record profits last year but delivered a slightly weaker showing in the first quarter due to unfavourable exchange rates.



Closing prices at Friday May 18 and weekly movement

BCA 193.0p (+3.0p)

Cambria 60.5p (-1.0p)

Caffyns 445.0p (+20.0p)

Inchcape 735.5p (-12.0p)

Lookers 105.0p (+4.2p)

Marshall Motor Holdings 170.0p (+3.0p)

Motorpoint 248.0 (+2.0p)

Pendragon 27.6p (+0.4)

Vertu 50.6p (+1.9p)



Kia Ceed five door hatchback. Prices tbc. On sale August 1

Kia Sportage mild hybrid. Kia’s first 48V diesel mild hybrid. Prices tbc. On sale second half of 2018

Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4 140 PS. Lighter and faster version in one solid, five metallic finished as no cost options. On sale from June 1 and month long launch price of £16,499 saving £1,500 off £17,999 list

Mercedes-AMG GT S Roadster. 520 bhp, 190 mph convertible. From £126,730. On sale now


Employers eyeing bigger pay rises

Companies are considering bigger pay rises to staff than they planned at the start of 2018 to keep pace with public sector increases and attract the staff they need. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said employers on average plan to raise basic pay by 2.1% at their next annual settlement, compared with 1.8% three months ago.



30 May – RMI Independent Garage Association member meeting, Launceston Rugby Club. Update on new legislation and revised MoT, garage efficiency and avoiding scams.

More details at


How well do your sales staff know today’s tech?

This won’t go down well among many but I have to ask the question, are all sales staff really up to speed with the technology in today’s cars and what customers are looking for in them?

It is something I have often mused about, how frequently the people at the sharp end of the sales process are trained and retrained on the products they sell. As cars become ever more electrically complex and digitally connected, I think it is a fair point to make.

Only a few months ago I was in a Kia dealership, lovely people and a good business, when it was let slip that one the salesmen hadn’t a clue how to link a mobile to a car.

And on the condition of talking strictly off the record I had a fascinating conversation this week with someone pretty high up in a dealership franchised with a premium German brand.

Why, he mused, do we need all this expensive real estate to display cars when it isn’t the way people buy them. Sitting in an office above the showroom and looking at what I guess would have been getting on for around £400,000 of metal below, he had a point.

Warming to his theme he went on along the following lines. “These places are for yesterday’s way of selling. I am sure we will see them being replaced by much smaller centres staffed with younger product geniuses or slicker online connection with better real-time linkage. It would be cheaper, in tune with today’s buyers, more efficient and the depth and breadth of knowledge the geniuses have of the product is remarkable. Remarkable and to a potential customer, convincing.”

He has a point.

As a motoring journalist I test a few new cars each month and write with a degree of expertise about the ride and handling, the engine performance and so on but increasingly I think I should focus more on MirrorLink and MirrorScreen, cloud technology and all the other tech which is so easily baffling to over-25s (like me) but which buyers tend to value more than the dampers’ bump and rebound characteristics.

Perhaps I will see a few sales execs at the next tech training session…


John Swift


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