Honda UK has moved into car retailing as part of strategy aimed at achieving ambitious growth targets. The manufacturer is ready to build its own sites as it moves towards its goal of increasing sales from 86,000 to 100,000 in the next two years.
One of the first wholly-owned sites is a new development in Bristol where Honda currently holds the former Arriva retail operation on a short-term lease. While the carmaker owns the site, it does not run the business itself, an arrangement similar to that with Norton Way at Chiswick Honda in West London. John Kennedy, Honda UK head of network development, will not say how many sites the company plans to or already does own but says it is likely to run into double figures based in major UK cities.
“Our policy has been and will continue to be that, where appropriate, we will have our own site to ensure the long term sales success of the brand. We have it clearly in our minds where we need to be represented in the market,” he says.
Cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester are being earmarked for development because rising property prices can put dealers off investing in new premises or developing existing sites to accommodate increased sales targets.
“In many of our existing franchises, the dealer is running out of space because the low volumes they were working on have grown considerably,” says Kennedy. “The dealers we are working with are happy for us to do this because it releases their capital to do other things.” He adds that many dealers were able to consider developing their sites for use as property.
Honda currently has 195 dealerships across the UK with an additional eight or nine signed up to come on board shortly. That means it is looking to add between 18 and 20 dealerships in order to achieve optimum coverage.
“We are not desperately looking to sign up dealers but instead we want to build long term business partnerships where the fit is right,” says Kennedy.