The changes also prepare the way for a change in the Edmiston dynasty, with new group managing director Andrew getting ready to succeed his father Bob, the group’s founder, group chairman and chief executive.
Peter Kinnaird, managing director of Subaru and Isuzu UK from December 1 when the changes take effect, believes IM can exploit the potential of Subaru as product improves and BMW and Mercedes-Benz stretch their brands.
“We will sell just over 9,000 Subarus this year, and our target is 11,000 in 2005 even though the market may slow down,” he says. “Subaru is moving upmarket, performs consistently well in JD Power owner satisfaction surveys and has scope for growth as exchange rates become more favourable.
“Subaru UK’s dealer network is coming into shape but is down to just under 90, and we want that to rise to about 120 by the end of next year. The foundation of the network has always been ‘owner drivers’ who stay close to their customers, and that is likely to continue in rural areas. We are though talking to AM100 groups interested in the Subaru franchise in cities where costs are so much higher.”
Kinnaird, currently director of overseas operations and business development, replaces Sam Burton, who quit his role as head of Subaru/Isuzu UK to become UK automotive director of Mondial Assistance. He will use his earlier experience at BMW and Land Rover to push Subaru upmarket.
There is also scope for more sales with Isuzu, says Kinnaird. “This year we will sell 2,500 Isuzu pick-ups but we misjudged the demand for the Denver at the top end of the range. Next year we are aiming for 4,000 Isuzu sales.”
He adds that IM has contacts in China and hopes eventually to import a car into mainland Europe and, later, the UK. Ed Swatman, an IM Group executive for 19 years, continues as chief executive but will progressively transfer day-to-day control of Subaru and Isuzu to Kinnaird. Swatman will focus on Daihatsu, business development and other overseas operations.
Bob Edmiston is preparing to hand over to Andrew by around the time IM Group moves into new headquarters on part of 40 acres it owns close to the Birmingham NEC in spring 2006. Andrew Edmiston will devote most of his time to developing the group. Meanwhile, he becomes chairman of Daihatsu UK.