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Partnerships key to Sytner growth

Sytner chief executive Laurence Vaughan believes the motor industry is entering a period where power is moving towards retailers, influenced by Government and consumer pressure.

“Manufacturers will need long term partners – dealers like Sytner will get opportunities to grow relationships,” he said.

His comments follow those of Peter Vardy who told Automotive Management (June 23) that carmakers could only reduce distribution costs by forming partnerships with dealer groups.

Mr Vaughan, speaking during the opening of Sytner's £1.2m TWR Jaguar dealership in Cumnor Hill, Oxford, identified Jaguar as a key partner for future expansion.

“It is definitely a growth marque and possibly the franchise with the most exciting future,” he said. The dealer group plans to add to its 37 dealerships, but is also developing an internet strategy.

“We are selling around 25% of used cars over the internet - a good proportion is incremental business,” said Mr Vaughan. “We will be investing in a more comprehensive internet business to add to the experience of buying a new car after appointing Martin Runnacles as e-commerce director.

“But we will develop the business ourselves rather than with a partner so we can control the customer relationship,” he added. “We will not build up a customer base for someone else.”

Mr Vaughan would not be drawn on the group's target number of outlets, insisting that if a good business was available, Sytner would consider buying it.

“We need to grow, but we don't need 200 outlets, just a good geographical spread,” he said. “We need more dealerships in the South-east, we're not in the North-east or in Scotland yet, and we don't have as many as we need in the North-west.”

Mr Vaughan is confident of growing the business with existing partners, pointing to the policy change by many manufacturers who no longer put a ceiling on the number of outlets operated by one group.

“It means we can now stick to the area of the marketplace we know, and expand with our preferred partners – it is important to have sufficient size, but with a select range of partners,” he said.

The prestige segment continued to expand “out of proportion to the rest of the market”, Mr Vaughan added. “We aim to grow the Sytner brand to be seen by prestige car customers as the first choice. “Manufacturers want fewer dealer partners, so the economic dynamics for Sytner are fabulous.”

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