Arrow Ford, of Pontllanfraith near Newport, Gwent, had been making losses of up to £50,000 a year for the past three years until dealer principal Robin Harris responded to an AM article requesting participants for a new BBC show ‘I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss’.
Ford, told about the programme just days before transmission earlier this month, says it hadn’t been aware the business was in trouble. It maintains that if Harris had approached the company directly it would have had a range of help to offer him. “If somebody wants to speak to one of our business advisors they only have to ask,” adds a spokesman.
During the programme, business guru Gerry Robinson, former chairman of media and leisure giant Granada Group, severely criticised Harris’ leadership and business skills. In one sequence, Harris was filmed selling a used Transit van to a customer in a scene that was reminiscent of another TV programme, Minder, featuring Arthur Daley. Cameras then followed the restructuring of the company as Nigel Bond, already a partner in the adjacent Rapidfit centre, came to acquire a 49% share in the trading company and assume operational control, leading to 10 redundancies.
Bond says the business is now on target to sell 120 new cars this year, but is 20% down on its used car sales target of 500 units. “I’d be happy to break even this year,” he adds.
Arrow is a retail (or second tier) dealership which is not required to submit financial information to Ford. Retail dealerships account for 44% of Ford sites but only 10% of Ford business (sales, parts and servicing) in the UK.
The company says retail dealerships are able to penetrate rural markets that would be too small for a major dealer. It holds ‘tripartite’ agreements with retail dealers; the only contract between Arrow and Ford concerns parts for servicing and repair. Supply of new and used cars is arranged between the retail site and a main dealer.
However, from October 2006 all Ford dealerships will be subject to the same franchise standards.