This year DCUK Retail expects to become the sixth group to top £1bn turnover, up from £898m in the latest AM100, rising to £1.4bn in 2004. Its long-term ambitions depend on the Department for the Environ-ment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) approving plans for the Mercedes-Benz brand centre next to Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey.
Local planning officers have now given their consent despite a number of objections from nearby residents and an adjacent authority. “We expect building work to start in January, with the centre to open in 2005,” says DCUK Retail managing director Geoff Brady.
The group has just undergone its second and final wave of acquisitions, completing the two-year retail strategy. Four outlets were purchased from franchised dealers taking the network to 35. Of these, 27 dealerships are within the London territory, spread across five market areas, four are in Manchester and four in Birmingham.
The next stage in the plan is to relocate some of the dealerships into larger premises. Over the next six months seven new outlets will open to house existing showrooms, while others will be refurbished or expanded to accommodate larger servicing workshops.
The total investment made by DCUK Retail and its franchised partners in overhauling the UK dealer structure – which now consists of 28 market areas (excluding London, Birmingham and Manchester) each operated by one partner – will be in the region of £500m, up by £150m on the original estimate. DCUK will account for the majority of the spend.
“We recognise that most manufacturers have not done very well in retail – we have a lot riding on this,” says Brady. “Last year we made profits which we expect to triple this year. But we still operate to the same standards and conditions as other franchised dealers in the network – we get no preferences. Daimler-Chrysler AG wants to benchmark us against other leading dealers to see how we perform against the likes of Reg Vardy.”
The brand centre won't actively sell cars, but is designed as a heritage showcase and will include a hotel to encourage people to visit from all over the country. Facilities include museum, test track and theatre, and DCUK Retail is also negotiating an all-in deal with the nearby Brooklands museum and Mercedes McLaren factory as it looks to offer a competitive alternative to against theme parks and other attractions.