Managing director Garry Hobson says the business, owned since 2000 by GMAC, GM’s finance operation, can now begin growth thanks to a comprehensive overhaul of its business practices.
His team has targeted four regions – north of London, south of London, the south-west and north Midlands – for expansion, with the first to be realised by the end of the first quarter, 2005.
Existing sites in Chertsey, Lakeside, Cannock, Manchester, Glasgow and Enfield each hold a stock of 400 cars, mostly three-year-old ex-fleet vehicles, with combined annual sales volumes estimated to be 25,000 units. GMAC’s medium-term aim is for CarLand to expand into Europe.
“Our investment in terms of GM is miniscule. It’s more about proving that the concept works,” says Hobson. “GMAC has always said when we’re ready to expand we’ve just got to tell them.”
CarLand was in “dire straits” two years ago, says Hobson, with serious issues concerning quality of service, staff retention and stock turnaround. Since then, the business has developed in-house training programmes for staff and management and re-examined its sales and F&I processes. Last year, CarLand won one of only two Chairman’s Honours awarded outside the US by parent company GMAC.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve been following that track and now we’re a very successful company within GMAC,” says Hobson.
CarLand is planning to open its seventh used car superstore early next year in a move which is expected to take the company’s turnover above a quarter of a billion pounds.
Unlike many car supermarkets, CarLand doesn’t claim to offer rock-bottom prices, he says. Instead, it markets itself in terms of choice, professional service and willingness to negotiate on price – which its customers expect.>
The company recently invested more than £500,000 on a new 130,000sq ft refurbishment centre in Stockport, which will be capable of preparing up to 1000 cars a month when it reaches capacity in November. Peter Burns, general manager of refurbishment and logistics, says the centre has been a vital step in improving efficiency and quality. Two years ago it could take 30 days before a car appeared in CarLand’s showrooms, now it is as few as three days.
Recruitment was initially a problem, as only half the staff from the previous centre in Salford made the move to Stockport. However, Burns says it is now only 10 recruits from its optimum 80-strong workforce.