AM Awards assessor Carter & Carter highlighted this fact while carrying out its appraisal, commenting: “Regional management has been adopted rather than franchise management to provide a single vision within each region, to run regional used car campaigns and to support acquisition integration.”
Chief executive Sir Peter Vardy – AM's personality of the year in 2003 – understands the need for communication between his management team, his staff, customers and manufacturer partners. Where once he took an confrontational stance towards carmaker relations, now he promotes the need for partnership. “Things have changed enormously,” Vardy says. “The only way ahead is to develop with our suppliers and partners.”
Last year Reg Vardy celebrated its 80th anniversary. Established in 1923 as a fruit and veg business in Durham by Sir Peter Vardy's father Reg, the company moved into haulage in 1930. It wasn't until 1946 that the business sold its first car. Four years later it became a Ford franchised dealer. In the late 70s, the retail side of the company started expanding, selling luxury makes like Aston Martin, Ferrari and Roll-Royce thanks to its innovative finance schemes. The original commitment of 'making cars affordable' remains one of Reg Vardy's priorities today.
“As colleagues we have a passion to be the best in the industry, to do things better today than we did yesterday, to make this year's results better than last year's,” says Vardy. “We constantly strive for excellence.”
His strategy to expand the group to 100 outlets by early 2005, announced early last year, has since been extended to 160 dealerships over the next couple of years. The tactics are piecemeal acquisitions, infilling areas where Reg Vardy has a strong presence, such as Scotland and the Midlands, rather than making large-scale group acquisitions like some rivals. Vardy believes this approach is the best way to absorb new businesses into its culture, ensuring they quickly contribute good profits.
The interim results for the six months to October 31, 2003, show this strategy is working. Pre-tax profits were up from £17.8m in 2002 to £24.2m, on turnover up 18.8% to £794.m. More pertinently, like-for-like turnover was 10%, demonstrating that the group remains focused on its existing business as well as the newly acquired outlets. Contributions come from every department – new car sales (including premium franchises like Ford PAG, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and volume brands like Vauxhall and VW), used cars, aftersales and body repair. Last year, Reg Vardy became an all-round success.
A true all-rounder, Reg Vardy has taken the step from being a good retailer to an exceptional one. Every outlet buys into its vision.