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Virgin Cars looks for aftersales partner

Virgin Cars is planning to drop its existing aftersales policy of working with lots of franchised dealers and independent repairers in favour of signing a bulk deal with one national partner.

The online car retailer, which recently opened its first new car showroom in Manchester, believes the move will help it to capture a greater proportion of profitable warranty work.

Virgin Cars chief executive Ian Lancaster says: “Aftersales and servicing represents a great opportunity for us and it is definitely something we're looking at.”

He is considering links with an established partner that can offer a national infrastructure of repair shops. Few such companies exist outside of the franchised network, although independent partners could include Nationwide Autocentres, with its 190 outlets, or fast-fit operators like Kwik-Fit.

Virgin would then “lend” this partner its brand, a move that Lancaster believes would give the chain vital kudos and respectability.

Currently, cars sold online and from the Manchester showroom are serviced by local dealer partners.

According to its website, Virgin has sold more than 10,000 cars since launch in 2000, but Lancaster will give no exact details about sales year-to-date. This volume of cars would prove attractive to a national partner, while Virgin hopes to benefit from larger servicing discounts. Lancaster plans to open 12 Virgin Car sites in total giving the network national coverage. The three-acre Salford superstore, the first post block exemption site of its kind, offers 25 brands under one roof.

While no sales figures are available Lancaster says the site is trading on target. Virgin research shows that 98 per cent of buyers express a repeat purchase intention and many are willing to recommend the business to their friends thanks to its no hassle sales approach.

“The benefits of our store are clear: huge choice, quick delivery, transparent value for money pricing, no hidden extras and competitive finance deals – in fact all you would expect from a Virgin brand,” says Lancaster.

He believes the showroom also gives carmakers an alternative route to market for nearly new stock like ex-demos, rental cars or management vehicles up to three months old. “We are a viable remarketing channel for manufacturers that are looking to support and protect residual values on nearly new stock.”

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