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Ratings at ‘all time high’

The Sewells Dealer Attitude Survey, seen by AM, reveals an improving relationship between retailers and carmakers – in direct contrast to the information published last month by the RMI, which claimed that dealer-manufacturer/importer relationships were at a decade low.

It added that many of the 1,000 participating retailers were downhearted about slim profit margins and communication issues. Yet the 14th annual Sewells Dealer Attitude Survey, which encompassed 1,110 franchised dealers, shows retailers’ attitudes are at a 14-year high.

Confidence has risen for the past four years in many major areas, including VM strategy for the development of the franchise and dealer network, their understanding of issues raised by the dealership, and the retailer’s rating of the franchise agreement. Sewells credits this largely to new dealer agreements issued last October and VMs’ clarification of their plans post block exemption revisions.

However, it appears that the retail sector is split when asked whether the overall relationship is improving, deteriorating or remaining the same. Confidence in the viability of the franchise rated particularly high in the Sewells study, in contrast to the RMI’s findings, which showed an overall decline. Sewells data indicated a small dip in investment returns and overall net profitability compared with the previous year. It summarises: “Although some caution is evident on the profitability front, there appears to be a ‘steady-as-she-goes’ feeling.”

Sewells also finds that dealers’ confidence in the quality and competence of manufacturer’s has improved significantly in recent years, which again appears to contradict the RMI’s findings, in which just over half the dealers surveyed complained that VMs did not take their views into consideration before making franchise decisions.

Brian Gourlay, research consultant for Sewells, says the study encompasses 122 points, compared with the RMI’s 18. “Ours is far more comprehensive,” he adds. “You have to recognise that the RMI has an agenda to suit its dealers.”

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