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Seat dealers told: make more space

Seat is urging its dealers to expand capacity, either by investing in larger premises or by taking on more staff and operating shift patterns as it bids to increase UK sales.

The company, which is also looking to bolster the network from 137 to at least 145 sites, says around 20 per cent of its dealers operate from multi-franchised sites. While it welcomes the benefits from multi-franchising, such as increased footfall and shared overheads, it wants undersized dealers to build new premises or move out the second brand to free up capacity.

“We are happy to share sites, but only if there is the capacity for sales and aftersales. Where a dealer does operate a multi-franchised site, they will need to have aftersales capacity - service and repair is a distress purchase and how the customer is treated is key to long-term loyalty,” says Seat UK director Kevin James.

“But it's not necessarily brick and mortar investment. Dealers could look at shiftwork by increasing their workforce. We are also looking at an apprenticeship scheme to help train and retain technicians - we need to show our dealers business viability.”

James believes the new VW Group structure, which places Seat in the 'sporty' division alongside Audi, and Lamborghini, will be good for the company. He claims new VW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder has a “soft spot” for Seat, where he spent two years in charge.

“We are being given more freedom to develop the brand under the new structure,” says James. “While we will share platforms styling will be very different, both internally and externally, and shared engines will be developed with different power outputs.”

Seat is targeting 40,000 UK sales by 2005, compared with just over 30,000 this year, but is confident of achieving that goal ahead of schedule on the back of a new consumer ad campaign in lifestyle magazines like Cosmopolitan and GQ.

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