Gold TMS Motor Group
Silver Dixon Motors
Bronze Williams Automobiles
A year ago, the Automotive Management Awards judging panel was deeply disappointed by the standard of entries in the category for new media. Since then, a number of new entrants have emerged, based on internet sales, and it is clear franchised dealer groups need to address the challenge.
This year's judges were pleased to see that some dealers are doing that and TMS Motor Group emerges as the gold award winner as a result of its imaginative approach.
This is the company's philosophy, which many other motor retailers would do well to consider: “We believe this incredible period of change will see many dealers not only survive, but thrive in the future.”
The group has looked for ways online of reinforcing relationships with customers and has exploited niche opportunities – it has a parts and accessories site for TVR. In its quality audit of the TMS entry, Carter & Carter probed a little deeper, finding the company has a discerning approach.
“TMS does not believe a vehicle approach is imminent just because somebody visits the website,” says the assessor's report. “But the group does believe the buying approach should be as enjoyable as possible.”
Taking the silver award is Dixon Motors which has adopted a two-pronged approach to new media.
The website www.dixonmotors.co.uk won praise in an independent survey conducted by RSM Robson Rhodes which collaborates with Automotive Management in compiling the AM100 of top motor retail groups.
In addition, Dixon Motors has confronted the challenge from dotcom specialists in its joint venture with Direct Line, providing cars ordered via Jamjar.com (almost 1,000 in the first three months, it says).
Dixon's own website replicates all areas of the business, including sales and marketing. The group has invested £200,000 this year and innovations include a 'real price list' which started before this autumn's round of price cuts by manufacturers. It is the most-visited page on the website.
Carter & Carter's assessment: “Direct Line has a strong brand representing value-for-money and Dixon's partnership has proved successful, especially in terms of expertise in specialist areas and media coverage.”
Williams Automobiles, winner of the bronze award, is a small Bristol-based muti-franchised dealer group which has embraced the opportunities thrown up by the internet.
The group holds the Saab, Lotus, Morgan and Suzuki franchises and has a local 'brochure website' to support its dealerships but also operates www.nearlynewcars.com which is geared to attract buyers nationwide. Williams has seen the opportunity from nearly new car sales and by going online has extended its operation – previously regional – to the whole of the UK.
Chairman Richard Williams says: “We are building a web trading company allowing dealers to compete with Virgin and others.”
Mr Williams said nearlynewcars.com would enable dealer networks the chance to market themselves in close proximity with their franchise name. This would be done using a domain suffix across a designated area of the country. Other ideas were being explored.
Carter & Carter's assessor comments: “The company has fully embraced the advantages afforded by the internet, by providing a national proposition and breaking down geographical barriers to trade. Secondly, it has made information retrieval and the purchase process easy, something many dealers have failed to do in recent years in their rush to become e-retailers.”
Milcars Group's in-house IT project team, Chris Ward and Minesh Pattni, were responsible for the design and implementation of the system used by the privately-owned dealer group in north-west London and Hertfordshire. The 'innovative holistic approach' has provided staff with multi-functional workstations with an intranet personalised to the user, ensuring manufacturer confidentiality.
Motor Nation, the Bristol Street Holdings' used car superstore, thinks big. It has this year completely overhauled its website which has been replaced by something much easier to use. Motor Nation finds people are reluctant to buy online but its website, as an interactive information point, has helped the whole sales process.