Where now for the Federation?

  28 March 2011

Those of you who have met Rob Foulston, now the former-chief executive of the RMIF, will know that he is not a man to keep his opinions to himself. So, the rather terse press statement announcing his resignation was as revealing as it was surprising.

Mr Foulston said he had “achieved the objective I was given of putting the RMI back into profit” and was standing down to pursue his other business interests, including the training company Remit. But, make no mistake, this was no planned move.

If it was, why is there no smooth handover to an incoming CEO? Why is the board of the RMI only now spending time on a new strategy? Equally puzzling is the silence of RMI chairman, Paul Williams. He praised Mr Foulston’s business flair and acumen on his appointment in 2009 but has singularly failed to comment on his resignation.

The reasons for Mr Foulston’s departure must remain matters of speculation – and it would be dangerous to speculate too much. Certainly the launch of the Trust My Garage scheme and his apparent focus on independent garages was controversial among franchised retailers. Equally, some members were uneasy about his leadership, especially after one of his other business interests, Tomahawk Hotels, was placed in administration last year. And there remains the unusual position with Remit, now owned 51% by the RMI and 49% by Mr Foulston personally.

Ultimately though, the last couple of years have simply highlighted (once again) the difficulty the RMIF finds in trying to represent the whole auto retail industry when its many component federations are fundamental business rivals. Make no mistake, the franchised sector views the independent garages as “the enemy” and that is not going to change.

Mr Foulston’s strategy of dropping the ‘F for Federation’, and presenting a united RMI, made sense externally but was not well received internally. The executive board is now considering a new structure; perhaps a more federal approach will emerge. Either way, a strong voice for franchised auto retailers is essential; and I’m sure the independent garages feel the same.

Read more about the resignation: http://bit.ly/gZX5YW

Here’s hoping March has been good to you. Do let us know your feelings about the registration numbers; have you hit your targets – and how? E-mail: rupert@auto-retail.com

Rupert Saunders

imageTags: Resignation, RMIF

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