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Virgin Cars boss to reveal plans

Ian Lancaster, Virgin Cars chief executive, will outline his vision of the future of motor retailing at Automotive Management's autumn conference on September 26.

'Motor retailing 2005', at London Olympia, will be a major focal point for the industry to debate likely trends during a coming period of great change.

Mr Lancaster and Sir Richard Branson plan to sell 24,000 cars worth £250m through the Virgin Cars website and call centre in the first 18 months.

The target - and claims of 700 orders worth £10m since the May launch - have been met with mounting scepticism among franchised dealers. At the conference, they will have their first chance to put Mr Lancaster to the test.

The conference, to be chaired by Prof Garel Rhys of Cardiff Business School, will include presentations on changes in the ways cars are sold. The next five years will see Block Exemption review and a likely initial shake-out among the early dotcom contenders.

Prof Rhys believes franchised dealers can retain most of their business as long as they are receptive to new ideas. Mark Squires, chief executive of Benfield, who will also speak, is one of the UK's most progressive dealer group bosses. Benfield won gold in the category for large dealer group in the 1999 Automotive Management Awards and is developing showroom ideas in tandem with manufacturers.

David Barker of Mountainview, who has worked on a number of automotive accounts including Saab's, is also a speaker. He will give a viewpoint on the conflict of the brand power of manufacturers, dealers and newcomers such as Virgin.

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