The expansion, which will bring the total number of dealerships to 220, represents the chance for existing Honda retailers to increase their representation, as well as an opportunity for new partners to join.
Philip Crossman, head of operations, Honda UK tells AM: “A number of existing retailers have already re-invested this year into second or third franchises. But the growth of the network will also be an opportunity for new partners. Honda is now being recommended by financing houses as a good investment, as identified by Pendragon’s recent buy-in to the network.”
In October, AM first told how preferred dealer partners had an opportunity to raise their representation with Honda, as the carmaker looks to reduce the number of owners operating its 200 dealerships. The network has seen around 30 dealerships change hands over the past 18 months, reducing the number of owners to 102. That will fall below 100 by the end of the year and Honda’s target is to have between 50-60 within the next three to four years.
Keir says that any new partners must “compliment the existing network”. Crossman explains that Honda wants prospective dealers to have drive and a commitment to grow and, importantly, to fully reflect the ethos of the brand. He says: “Any new partners need to demonstrate both a high customer focus and strong service focus, as I believe the future of our industry will be based around customer convenience, both in terms of sales and aftersales.”
Honda has doubled its volume over the last six to seven years and is looking to double it again by 2015, to 180,000 vehicles. To achieve this, Crossman recognizes that routes to market may need to alter. As a result, the carmaker is looking to grow sales within the areas it has not historically competed in, such as user-chooser fleet buyers, B2B sales and diesel sectors.
“We are bringing more products to market and are continuing to grow. And with the arrival of the Legend (in July 2006), we will again have representation in the E-sector,” he says.