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VW denies clash with dealers

Robin Woolcock, Volkswagen’s UK group managing director, has denied that a clash of personalities led to the manufacturer terminating VW contracts with the Hartwell and Whitehouse dealer groups.

There has been growing unrest in the network over the past few months despite VW’s strong market share performance in new car registrations (6.98%, up from 6.81%, year-on-year to end of August).

Woolcock dismisses claims by some dealers that Paul Willis, the VW director, was prone to operating in a manner which contrasted with a partnership relationship.

“I will not comment on the reasons why we dropped Hartwell and Whitehouse,” says Woolcock. “I can, though, assure our dealers and everyone else that decisions like these are always based on performance and that what is being said will have no bearing on decisions taken by Paul Willis or by me.

“Under block exemption rules, we have to have a valid reason for terminating a dealer or group. We have no policy to reorganise the VW network, which is performing well, but we do have a queue of people who would like to be VW dealers.

“Part of my job is to keep an eye on the relationship between our brand directors and the retail network. I have not detected any major difference in that between Paul Willis and VW retailers, and Kevin Rose and his Audi network.”

According to a number of VW dealers, it is difficult for them to make a good profit out of the brand. “It’s hard work for everyone at the moment, and manufacturers are offering incentives, but VW is one of the more profitable brands,” says Woolcock. “The Mk V Golf is doing 120% of UK target and VW residuals have never been stronger.”

A further problem for the Volkswagen Group is that a survey published this month by Which?, the Consumers Association magazine, has rated VW and Audi as “poor” for reliability (BMW was judged similarly). Woolcock says: ‘We put our hands up to a one-off problem with ignition coils which probably accounts for VW’s and Audi’s performance in the survey.”

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