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AM Awards 2000 - Dealer Group Sponsored by Esso Lubricants

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Gold Bates Motor Group
Silver Holden Group
Bronze Autoworld

Take an old established business, add a forward-thinking chairman and sole shareholder with uncompromising views on quality and you have gold award winner Bates Motor Group.

Edward Belcher in 1996 formed a five-year plan for growth which was this year replaced by another before it ran out of steam. The group has six dealerships with BMW, Audi and VW outlets and he wants to open five more with them, plus adding Mercedes-Benz.

Mr Belcher has a company with more than 300 employees, turnover topping £100m and a return on sales of 3.85%. He operates with a mixture of strong leadership and devolvement of power, so there is scope for all in the team to prove their worth.

Bates was founded in 1856 as the manufacturer of wooden cycles in the Essex town of Maldon and diversified into agricultural machinery, farming and the leisure industry. 'From bikes to BMWs' has often been the headline when newspapers have reported the development of the group which, said Mr Belcher, intended to be “the most admired and respected privately-owned dealership group within the UK”.

Bates, which has BMW, Audi and VW outlets, rose to No60 in the AM100 published in June. The group was top in an accompanying table based on the average profit from each of a group's franchised outlets.

For Holden Group, winner of the silver award, 'just ask' has been adopted a used car brand but it also represents the attitude of the whole multi-franchise group.

Managing director Chris Carey said Holden – established as a family business 70 years ago – was a group with “courage, vision and spirit”. It had retained the values on which it was built – “exceptional quality and service”.

Mr Carey said 'just ask' was inspired by the efficiency of US used car outlets. Holden believed there was a gap in the market for a quality operation and conducted research to identify car users' needs.

He said Holden had addressed the main frustrations which included purchase delays, restricted choice, high minimum deposits and worthless warranties.

At Holden, general managers at the franchised outlets have full autonomy and are challenged to champion both manufacturer and Holden brands.

Autoworld, which takes bronze, is based at Chesterfield and has franchised outlets in north Derbyshire and south Yorkshire. It began with the Skoda franchise in 1986, adding Suzuki the following year, and now represents 10 manufacturer brands.

Autoworld says it has always placed financial stability high on its list of priorities. The group has side-stepped a number of medium/high risk opportunities, preferring to maintain what it calls “a controlled growth policy”.

Highly commended
Vincent Group, based at Yeovil, Somerset, holds the car franchises of Rover, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu, plus VW commercial. In August it launched the Vincent Group Privilege Club as an aftersales initiative in its Rover dealership, offering 0% finance for servicing, repairs and exhausts. The club will be developed to retain customers throughout the group.

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