AM Online

Executive ups and downs in 2001

BMW Group – including Mini, of course – is one of the clear winners of 2001. Freed from the constraints of trying to make Rover profitable, BMW has grown in terms of production and stature. The group has a UK 100,000 sales target for BMW and Mini next year.

The group has silenced the sceptics (including Automotive Management at times) with the masterly way it launched the successor to the 1959 original Mini.

BMW kept its cool when AM and many other publications refused to adopt its preferred MINI title for the car.

Perhaps the group regarded the stance as a tribute, because the Mini is a fitting successor to the car which won the Monte Carlo Rally. It is classy, cleverly packaged and in demand.

The decision not to spend £1.5m to take a stand at next year's Birmingham motor show (revealed in AM, November 23) proves BMW GB is decisive. With an increase of nearly 18% in its UK BMW registrations to the end of November, the company feels it can set its own agenda. There will be a Mini stand, because the reborn brand needs to grow.

Citroen has had a rip-roaring year, with UK market share rising from around 3% last year to more than 5% in 2001. The totals for cars and light commercials combined are expected to show an increase from 2000's 84,491 to 150,000 or so by the end of the year.

For 2002, the target is 6% in Britain as the Xsara Picasso MPV (Citroen's star performer) and C5 are joined by the C3, to be sold alongside the smaller Saxo.

Ford has fared well in the UK this year, led by success with the Focus and the new Mondeo. Detailed SMMT new car registrations data published by Automotive Management in October provided the detail of sales trends during the first six months of the year and Ford's dominance across several market sectors.

With new Fiesta reaching showrooms in the spring, Ford will be confident it can at least maintain its market share lead over Vauxhall in 2002.

Toyota GB's year has been good and the manufacturer is ambitious. Led by Yaris, the product line-up is starting to shine and Toyota is determined to introduce its new approach to retailing throughout the dealer network. Critics have dismissed it as merely another American-style 'meeter greeter' gimmick but Toyota insists staff attitudes are changing. Toyota seems to have a product replacement programme and a retail renaissance running in tandem.

Honda UK claims an encouraging start for its £8m flagship dealership at Chiswick, south London, which puts the group's new cars, motorcycles and lawnmowers under one roof. The manufacturer has been decisive and shown confidence in the strength of its brand. The cost of the development shows why car manufacturers often need to invest in retail premises in the South-east and the Chiswick venture is likely to be replicated less expensively elsewhere.

Saab has much to do but the debut of the 9X concept car at September's Frankfurt show was enough to justify its listing as a winner. Many were impressed by the strength of the lines of the 9X, and General Motors has pledged to put in some heavy investment at last, giving Saab the chance to become a key global brand.

The marque's image is perhaps unique in the industry because it manages to combine safety and performance potential at the same time. Others – such as Mercedes – would claim similar prowess but Saab's trump card lies in its Scandinavian base and heritage. It is somehow less strident than Mercedes' image.

Three top executives working for manufacturing multi-nationals have been in the ascendancy this year – Renault Group's Carlos Ghosn, Volkswagen's Bernd Pischetsrieder and Ford's Sir Nick Scheele.

Carlos Ghosn has winner stamped all over him. Whatever else he achieves (with Renault group or elsewhere), it will be hard to top the way he has cut through traditional Japanese attitudes and turned round Nissan. This remarkable internationalist (a French citizen born in Brazil of Lebanese parents) is being touted as a future boss of Ford Motor Company. As the hottest automotive executive on the market, Mr Ghosn can take his pick and perhaps running Renault/Nissan is his goal.

He might though first want to dent Toyota's domination of the Japanese market (nearly half new car sales). Bernd Pischetsrieder, who resigned as the boss of BMW Group in 1999, was named as Volkswagen chief executive officer from April.

Sir Nick's rise has been less dramatic but noteworthy. The former Jaguar chairman and Ford of Europe president has proved he can listen, consider, discuss and then be decisive.

Now chief operating officer at Ford Motor Company, Sir Nick is probably the main architect of the masterplan to be announced next month. By nature charming and genial, Sir Nick has forged a close relationship with the Ford family and is underestimated by no-one who meets him.

There were UK retail winners, too. Bates Motor Group chairman Edward Belcher sold his business to Inchcape Retail for £22.3m. He stays at least until next September as business development director and is looking at new acquisitions.

Mr Belcher probably has no financial need to work again after this deal but may relish the prospect of trying to extend his version of customer care to Inchcape's new motor retail partnership with the AA.

Peter Vardy collected a knighthood and was No. 137 in the Sunday Times' list of the UK's top 500 earners this year. Sir Peter's earnings totalled £4.84m but he trailed IM Group chairman Bob Edmiston, 71st with £7.71m. Both men are committed Christians and use part of their wealth to help other people which is something to consider a few days before Christmas.

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