AM Online

Former No1 bows out

The sale of all Lex Retail's franchised dealerships and four bodyshops marks the end of an important chapter in the history of UK motor retailing. Five years ago, Lex headed the AM100 with 104 new car outlets and a £1bn turnover.

Sir Trevor Chinn, chairman, headed an aggressive acquisition programme through the recession-hit early Nineties. He hoped to build a sound business through massive economies of scale. When the good times returned but the profits did not, he had no hesitation in selling - first the volume car dealerships and now the rest.

Sir Trevor, and Andy Harrison, Lex chief executive, do not believe there is a future in a business dominated by manufacturer control. Even highly profitable Jaguar dealerships - sales of the S-type rescued Lex Retail's financial results last year - cannot be sustained forever “unless you are part of the family”, as one insider said.

The disposal does not mark the end of Lex's ambitions in car sales. The group wants to continue to develop its eight Lex Autosales used car centres as separate businesses, developing closer strategic links with its RAC brand “in due course”.

Lex will also keep its Lex Commercials division, with 28 HGV outlets including 10 LDV-DAF joint franchises. It has major capital tied up in truck leasing and commercial vehicle programmes.

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