Gold Alan Day New Southgate
Silver FG Barnes
Bronze Reliance Cars
Dealerships thrive on fresh thinking and gold award winner Alan Day New Southgate, opened in 1998, came up with a determined strategy after Audi was separated from this VW outlet.
Part of the Alan Day Motor Group in north London, the dealership was given a larger territory. It tackled three areas where action was needed:
The business represents a strong brand but competition continues to become more intense, and last year the New Southgate operation sold 2,200 new and used VWs. The dealership has achieved its ambition of becoming the UK's top VW dealership by volume and good management while ensuring rising profits have kept in step.
One new approach has been to adopt “cross functional' monthly meetings, without the presence of a manager. This has enabled the team to provide solutions to operational problems and to create new initiatives.
Marketing was a high priority. The team wanted to ensure existing customers were retained and new ones identified, so each month they organise a mailshot to 2,000 people. Kieron Healey, group operations director, said: “Customers were expecting increasing levels of services and we were concerned that with the departure of Audi, the reverse might be the case. We also realised that any increase in resource – coupled with pressure for improved value for money – would inevitably put margins under pressure. Our response was a tough approach to cost control.”
Carter & Carter comment: “The increase in sales was as a direct result of the changes made.”
FG Barnes, a Vauxhall dealership at Maidstone, Kent, wins the silver award through success in making its objectives of “volume and profit through continuous improvement” into a reality.
The company acquired the franchise eight years ago and the team launched a programme to build a customer base. Over the past three years the dealership has made steady progress driving up turnover and profits.
Carter & Carter, the awards quality auditor, says the key to success appears to have lain in the recruitment of a “complementary” management team.
John Smith, FG Barnes general manager, said: “By 1996, we were the largest Vauxhall dealership in Kent with a high profile, and volume sales have been achieved through maintaining a continuously growing customer database.” Carter & Carter comment: “FG Barnes keeps all staff motivated by recognising every outstanding contribution with some reward.”
Bronze winner Reliance Garage, of Norwich, completed the redevelopment of its site in the first quarter of last year. The Renault dealership managed to continue with “business as usual” and, says Carter & Carter, ensured that sales performance was not affected, as so often happens.
General manager Steve Culley is proud of the transformation at Reliance which used to be “cramped and hectic” with a staff of 38. Now it accommodates a team of 52 who operate in much more pleasing surroundings.
The photographs which accompanied the entry backed Mr Culley's comment that customers “could be forgiven for thinking they had entered the foyer of a stylish, upmarket hotel”.
Carter & Carter comment: “Staff selection is focused on recruiting people with specific skills reflecting the expertise customers would expect.”
Holden Honda, of Norwich, is part of a Norfolk group which has become a success story. This dealership consistently outperforms sales targets for new and used cars and general manager Nigel Potter conveys his enthusiasm to the rest of the team.
Norton Way Honda, of Letchworth, Herts, won gold in the category for dealer group a year ago and its attempt to win again in the 'volume' category is typical of its determination. The dealership remains a star performer for Honda Europe.
Toll House Toyota, of Slinfold, near Horsham, West Sussex, has been a Toyota outlet for 18 years. Current general manager Peter McLaughlin has pushed forward the pace of change started by the directors who took control in the late Eighties and this has been reflected in a dramatic improvement in its area customer service rating.