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First National set to remove Wagon

First National is dropping the Wagon brand in a major restructuring of its motor finance division.

Keith Horlock, motor finance executive director, said the division's two brands, First National Motor Finance and First National Wagon Finance, would be merged into a single operation from January.

The two brands had been running separately since First National bought Lombard Motor Finance and renamed it in 1998.

Mr Horlock said: “We have merged the two operations more quickly than we thought. After 15 months it is really operating as one. Using two brands didn't really add any real value to what we are offering in the market place.” The restructured company will offer two separate services to dealers depending on size of business. National, multi-franchise accounts will be handled centrally through the former Lombard process centre at Redhill. Small and medium sized dealerships will be handled by a new network of 15 regional offices.

Mr Horlock said the aim was to provide a rapid, automated service for major dealers while also offering a “more local, personalised service” to smaller businesses. The company had identified a widening gap between the needs of its national and non-national accounts through a survey of 600 dealers over the summer.

“Our local offices will be much closer to the dealers and understand the local marketplace,” said Mr Horlock. “They will have more power to intervene and to react to what dealers want in a local way.”

The move will mean a reduction in the First National network from 26 to 15 branches but Mr Horlock said the new offices would be larger and office hours would be extended to process finance proposals seven days a week. There will be no redundancies among sales staff.

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