Dealers are concerned that carmakers will try to exert greater control over their businesses during the next 12 months as the Block Exemption review deadline looms.
The Retail Motor Industry Federation's latest Dealer Attitude Survey revealed that half of the 30 retail networks surveyed returned a higher score compared to the winter review.
Alan Pulham, RMI national franchised dealer director, said: “Concern over Block Exemption is a major contributory factor, but the findings are symptomatic of the relationship between manufacturers and dealers – it favours manufacturers.
“They own leases on some dealer premises, which gives them a say in how the business is run, and they control profit potential by releasing money based on the performance of certain criteria.”
Two-thirds, though, remained confident that the overall business relationship would improve.
“Dealers are natural optimists and the industry is having a good year,” said Mr Pulham. “BMW, for example, is highly autocratic but the relationship is good because dealers are making money.”
BMW was rated top franchise for value – at 9.7. Notable improvements were made by Suzuki, tied fourth with Jaguar at 8.2, and Volvo, up from 5.8 in the winter survey to 7.3. Mazda finished bottom of the 'franchise value' listing, on the back of a 51% slump in registrations year-to-date, with a 2.5 score. In a poor showing for the brand, Mazda dealers expressed the most concern over future manufacturer influence, with a 0.6 increase.
The ratings highlight the concerns and uncertainty that surround Mazda Motors' acquisition of the UK import business from MCL Group.
Despite the angry scenes surrounding DaimlerChrysler's controversial sacking of its Mercedes-Benz network, the franchise had an improved rating, up from 4.4 to 5.2, though still down on the 6.8 points achieved 12 months' ago. Mr Pulham said: “This is a reflection that the situation has now been sorted out. Mercedes dealers have also enjoyed a profitable year.”