Gold Dixon Motors
Silver Reg Vardy
Dixon Motors carries off the gold award following a series of carefully considered and well executed strategic moves over a number of years.
Paul Dixon and the team began by building a strong network of dealerships in the Nineties, choosing both locations and manufacturers with shrewdness.
This was an essential foundation stone for other enterprises to follow. Three years ago, the acquisition of Carnell gave Dixon access to the motorcycle market at the moment when it was flourishing well.
Since then, Dixon has developed the two-wheels business and capitalised on the sector's potential for profit through accessories. The group has responded to motorcycle buyers who demand the same level of service in showrooms as car buyers.
Dixon Motors has made the boldest move of all major dealer groups in seizing the opportunities offered by the internet. It is providing the cars for Jamjar.com, the website operated by Direct Line, the insurance company.
It takes an impressive performer to get ahead of Reg Vardy which takes silver by virtue of its sustained strong motor retailing performance.
Chairman Peter Vardy has managed to take the format of a regional group and make it a reality nationally which all in the industry know is a major challenge.
The group's strength comes from the enthusiasm and skills of chairman Peter, son of the founder Reg Vardy. He lost his long-term right-hand man, Graeme Potts, who went to the RAC but has since restructured the senior management team. Mr Vardy earns respect for his outspoken but measured comments about manufacturers. He has for a while believed carmakers have too much influence over dealers and is a powerful voice for retailers.
The judges did though mark down Reg Vardy for not making an earlier strong move of some kind in terms of online sales. The bronze award was won by LOOKERS, the Manchester-based group, which includes Charles Hurst in Northern Ireland. Under the strong leadership of chief executive Fred Maguire, Lookers has been modernising itself in recent years.
Mr Maguire has recognised the need to invest substantially in upgrading Lookers' dealerships. He has taken Lookers into a strong alliance with the reforming Renault/Nissan retail set-up.
A year ago, Lookers won the AM gold award for aftersales after a radical overhaul of its aftersales operation. This included hiring university students to clean-up the database so that Lookers could be in closer touch with its customers.
Lookers also took the top award in the training category last year, reflecting the group's determination to prepare itself for the continuing tough demands on major dealer groups.
Glenvarigill was Scotland's representative on the shortlist and is building a portfolio of franchises which is identifying it as a potential major group of the future.
The company is a subsidiary of the Drambuie liqueur producer. The £67m turnover group has 18 franchised sales points and its strongest partner is Chrysler Jeep which it represents in four places. The other marques are varied, from Proton to Ferrari, as the company chooses the right franchise for each new territory.
HR Owen specialises in selling specialist and luxury marques in London and the South-east. Its most recent development was the acquisition of the London Jack Barclay Rolls-Royce dealership. Chief executive Nick Lancaster is attempting a 'Harrods' effect' in motor retailing, in the belief people will pay extra for service which is special.
Sanderson Bramall Motor Group is led by Tony Bramall, who built and sold a substantial motor retailing business. He made his comeback to the industry he loves through Sanderson Bramall, ranked No4 with a £812m turnover in this year's AM100. Mr Bramall is recognised as one of the shrewdest operators in the business and he recruited Peter Jones from Rover as his chief executive.