Auto Retail Agenda: 4 March 2019

  03 March 2019



Lexus considers satellite network expansion

Lexus is examining the possibility of delivering cars through servicing outlets or smaller satellite retailers as cost-effective ways of increasing its geographic footprint. The brand is also increasing investment in pop-up stores and shopping centres to feed better and more leads to retailers.

Lexus currently operates a network of 46 franchised sites run by 23 partner retailers.

“We want high-quality viable representation and our plan is to work with retailers to have the right representation in a specific geographical area. If it is a small marginal town there is no sense in having a fully blown dealer, it makes sense to have a smaller version with less overheads,” said Lexus UK director Ewan Shepherd.

“That could be a ‘lite’ version of a Lexus dealer to extend our reach, a traditional dealership on a smaller scale, or [the franchise holder] may decide to do a used car and service outlet in a town, like a satellite operation within their territory.”

Lexus has increased its budget in off-site promotion such as shopping centre displays by £1m this year to feed retailers more leads as an attempt to push the brand into more communities.



Marshall buys Progress Skoda

Marshall Motor Group is understood to have bought the four Skoda franchises run by Progress Motor Group for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition follows the purchase of two Skoda sites from Sandicliffe earlier this year taking Marshall’s total for the Czech brand to 11.

The most recent takeover makes Marshall the biggest Skoda retailer in the UK with 11 sites for the brand. A significant step up from the five with which it started the year.

The addition of the Progress Skoda sites in Bedford, Harlow, Letchworth and Northampton leave Progress with three Suzuki franchises in Letchworth, Milton Keynes and Kettering which will continue to be run by Terence Byrne.

As whole, Progress had a turnover of £54.3 million in 2017 with a profit before tax of £631,571.


Infiniti retailer hit by £1.4 million loss

Rose Kiln Retail, the Infiniti-owned dealer group, which operates five of the total six new car showrooms for the brand slumped to a £1.4 million loss in the year up to the end of March 2018 as sales collapsed by almost 80%.

Accounts which were filed late at Companies House showed the loss and an admittance from the directors that “successfully establishing the Infiniti brand in this market remains a key challenge” despite it being active in the UK since 2010.

Sales peaked at 3,515 in 2017 but last year Infiniti registered just 750 cars and in January this year just 32.

A company spokesman said new models in the pipeline including EVs should help a turnaround, adding: “Even though the figures show a poor performance we are all positive with where we are right now. Lower volume was expected, stock has been well managed and our future electrified models are starting to be revealed. And we have Q50h and QX50 to look forward to within the next 12 months.”



Tesla GB says too early to decide UK online sales policy

Tesla GB says it is too early to decide if its retailers here will be closed in favour on the online sales policy announced this week by the parent company in America.

Tesla is moving to digital-only sales as part of the cost-cutting needed to get its critical new Model 3 to the target price of $35,000 (£26,500) it believes is essential for volume sales. Replacing retailers with digital and forcing cost efficiencies in its factories will cut the cost of its cars by around 6%.

The Model 3 is scheduled for a UK launch in the second half of 2019 but speaking to Auto Retail Agenda about the online sales policy, a spokeswoman for Tesla GB said: “It would be too early to speculate how or when this will impact countries outside of the US.”



Tata denies JLR sell-off report

JLR owner Tata Motors has rubbished claims it is exploring options that could include selling a stake in the loss-making manufacturer or finding a partner for jointly developing models.

Speaking of a report on the Bloomberg news wire saying Tata is holding early talks with advisors, a spokesperson told Reuters: “There is no truth to the rumours that Tata Motors is looking to divest its stake in JLR.”



‘Last of British brands’ tag could help Vauxhall says CEO

Vauxhall could thrive as a ‘unique survivor’ in the British automotive industry post-Brexit, PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares said.

Click here for Auto Retail Bulletin’s interview with Vauxhall sales and customer experience director Peter Hope.



Caffyns loses earlier gains, drop for Inchcape

Closing prices at 1 March and weekly movement

BCA 205.5p (-1.5p)

Cambria 64.0p (-1.0p)

Caffyns 385.0p (-25.0p)

Inchcape 578.0p (-30.5p)

Lookers 103.8p (-1.2p)

Marshall Motor Holdings 158.0p (-7.0p)

Motorpoint 204.8p (+11.8p)

Pendragon 24.5p (-2.1p)

Vertu 36.4p (-2.5p)





Jaguar XE. Heavily revised saloon first in class with RDE2 compliant diesel versions, ahead of the January 2021 legislative deadline. This cuts company car drivers BIK rate by 4% and reduces first year VED for retail buyers. It has enhanced styling and spec including a segment-first ClearSight rear view mirror using a wide-angle rear facing camera. From £33,915.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Upgraded trim packs and spec, three Euro 6 compliant engines and every model has five years warranty, three years scheduled servicing and five years roadside assistance as standard as part of the 5-3-5 campaign. From £19,750.

Volvo XC90. Order books open for revised SUV with energy recovery braking for the first time claimed to give 15% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. Deliveries in late Q2. Prices tbc.


Honda HR-V Sport. 182hp 1.5 VTEC turbo engine from latest Civic gives the Sport an uplift of 52hp from the standard petrol model. Manual and CVT transmissions, bespoke suspension settings and ‘handling assist’ technology. From £27,595.



All week: National Apprenticeship Week

Monday: NFDA Dealer Attitude Survey, check back to this website at 10am for the results.

Monday: Financial Conduct Authority motor finance multi firm review report

Tuesday: SMMT February registrations

Wednesday: launch of UK Automotive 30% Club website, retailer and manufacturer-backed campaign to get more women to senior positions

Saturday: ONS Consumer Price Inflation report




Consumers ready for major purchases

Shoppers’ confidence remained stable throughout February despite Brexit fears and the appetite for major purchases actually rose from this time last year.

GfK’s long-running Consumer Confidence Index increased by one point to -13 in the month and although still negative it said all the signs show surprising resilience. The indices for people’s forecast of their personal finances over the next 12 months and expectations for the general economic situation over the same period both rose fractionally.

Crucially for car retailers, the major purchase index climbed by three points to 5 which is five higher than in February 2018.


Mortgages and borrowing show rise

Mortgage approvals and borrowing both rose in January suggesting homeowners are less worried about a post-Brexit slump than many pundits predict, Bank of England data shows.

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases was higher than any forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, hitting 66,766 in January, up from 64,468 in December.


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