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New RMI president warns carmakers on standards

The appointment of Colin Parlett as the Retail Motor Industry Federation's president – replacing Lookers' Fred Maguire whose two-year term of office ended last month – sends out a clear signal that the trade association is not just run by the biggest, most powerful dealer groups.

Parlett, who holds office until summer 2005, is a former chairman of the RMI's independent garage division, and runs the independent garage CB Motors in Golders Green, London.

The RMI has also announced that Eamon Bradley, chief executive of Jardine Motors Group, replaces former CD Bramall chief executive Peter Jones – now at Inchcape – as chairman of the NFDA dealer division, while David Grant becomes chairman of the National Truck Council. John Denton of Quarry Garages in Huddersfield becomes chairman of the independent garage division.

Speaking to AM, Parlett says: “The retail sector is big enough to tell the vehicle manufacturers, 'don't try to ride roughshod over the franchises and the independent sector.' One of the main concerns I have is the threats manufacturers are placing on franchised dealerships – especially the SMEs. “There is a clear consumer need for that type of mid-range franchised dealer, but I am concerned at the continual raising of standards. The majority of the franchised network already operates to very high standards indeed and there is not a lot of room for improvement. I believe some manufacturers have a hidden agenda there, and we need to be constantly monitoring what they are up to.”

Parlett also has concerns regarding the release of technical information to the independent aftermarket. “Rumour has it manufacturers are trying to stop franchised dealers giving technical information. If manufacturers continue to provide technical information in a manner which is unacceptable – they are providing it, but it is not user-friendly – it won't be long before some of the big aftermarket parts makers set up their own helplines. That will be dangerous for franchised dealers,” he says.

Eamon Bradley – who has also joined the RMI board of directors – was out of the country when AM tried to contact him. But Alan Pulham, the RMI's franchised dealer director, comments: “Eamon's unique insight will be invaluable as we face the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

David Grant of Mercedes dealer Orwell Trucks in Ipswich succeeds Keith Safritz as chairman of the RMI National Truck Council. Safritz is standing down after four years in the post, but will become new deputy president of the RMI.

Grant says truck dealer profitability is improving. Net profit before tax as a percentage of total sales is now typically between 1.25% and 1.75% for most franchises, on the back of a very buoyant market and a growing reliance on repair and maintenance contracts.

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