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Carnell promises 'choice and value' at Car People

The Car People, a new to five-year-old car retailer focusing on volume makes, is the first in a planned network of six superstore outlets across the UK.

Managing director Martyn Carnell is confident his business can succeed where others - notably, Maxcars, Car Group and Motorworld - have failed because he understands the core elements of used car retailing.

"The businesses that failed had poor stock selection, inadequate pricing - for example, not realising that customers will pay more for metallic paint than flat colours - and didn't manage their stock turn," he said.

The Car People operates a 30-day stock turn, though this varied according to the car.

"A new car will have a much longer shelf life than an older vehicle. Our IT systems enable us to control this aspect of the business a lot better."

Mr Carnell is critical of the motor industry, believing it has "failed to move with the times", which opened the way for new entrants like the dotcom operators.

"Facilities may be great but it's the people that are key and they are treating customers the same as they were 10 years ago," he said.

The Carnell brothers sold their car and motorcycle dealer group to Dixon Motors for £12.4m in 1997. They remained with the business for two years, helping to ensure the smooth integration of the 12 outlets, before spending a year planning a return to the industry.

"We sold the Carnell business because we could see a change in the marketplace where customers were demanding more choice, preferably from one site," said Mr Carnell. "We built the Car People on the back of these needs, offering value, knowledge and choice.

"We now have the ability to create our own buying environment, not influenced by manufacturers - it's down to us to succeed."

Mr Carnell dismisses claims that the used car sector is suffering from a lack of quality stock, which has left retailer confidence low. He believes it is "an ideal time" to enter the market.

"There are car supermarkets out there that are enjoying record sales because they are operating in today's marketplace with regard to price and product.

"There is a lot of quality stock available - we have franchised and independent dealers ringing us all the time wanting to sell new and used cars."

The Car People is expecting to retail 5,000 cars in its first year, gradually growing to 10,000. Used stock is likely to be divided between older part-exchanges (20%) and two/three-year-old cars (15%), with the remaining 65% split between new/delivery mileage and nearly-new models. New stock will be sourced 40% from Europe and 60% from the UK.

The Car People has been designed to allow consumers a relaxed environment in which to compare a wide range of vehicles. They can use computers to search for specific models and access the internet to compare prices, while a call centre has been set up for external enquiries.

The Car People has several developments planned for next year, including a servicing package with a partner and an extension of stock locator website www.thecarpeople.co.uk to include finance, insurance and warranty.

A second site will open next year, with the other four due to open by 2005, though Mr Carnell is confident of having all six sites operational within three years if demand holds up.

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