A New Year message?

  04 January 2011

Next week will see the launch of a joint campaign by the RMI and the SMMT highlighting the value provided by franchised auto retailers to consumers throughout the life of their car. Not before time, you might argue – and with some justification.

As we have said before, we need to lift the current debate beyond simplistic arguments about labour rates and ‘rip-off’ prices to focus on value, quality and whole life costs. It’s a noble aim, but it will not be easy.

Let’s be honest; the average motorist has a pretty hazy notion of how the retail motor industry works and certainly knows little about the different sectors within the industry. Broadly speaking, new cars are bought on brand, used cars are bought on price and all cars are serviced locally – so trying to create a divide in the mind of the customer between manufacturers, franchised retailers and the independent sector is largely a pointless exercise.

Having said that, the RMI and the SMMT make uneasy bedfellows at a political level. Yes, they have worked together effectively on issues such as scrappage and company car taxation. But, while they may sometimes share a common purpose, the two parties – like certain another coalitions – come from very different backgrounds.

Over several years, franchised retailers working through the National Franchised Dealers Association have been very successful in establishing the fundamental commercial difference between auto wholesaling and auto retailing in the mind of government. We have seen the effect of that in legislation such as the new car pricing order and in Ministers’ acknowledgement of the benefits of scrappage to employment in the retail sector.

So, while working for a common purpose, let’s not lose that clarity in government, at the SMMT or at the RMI. Franchised auto retailers are the beating heart of this industry. Without you, there would be no sales channels for the manufacturers; without you, there would be no used cars for the independent sector to service.

Perhaps that is the message that should be shouted, loud and clear, by our trade associations in 2011.

Let’s hope the new year is good to you, both in and out of the showroom. If you have a story for us, or want to get something off your chest, email rupert@auto-retail.com

Rupert Saunders

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