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Headline news in 2005

What a year. 2005 has seen it all: falling new car sales, the collapse of MG Rover, Reg Vardy up for sale, location clause ending – and all the while retailers have been facing up to stringent franchise controls and tough audit procedures.

The franchise audit standards issue will be a major story for next year – AM has received unprecedented levels of dealer feedback to recent articles we have covered and will be continuing to press this issue with the RMI and the OFT.

This year AM was at the forefront of all the big news stories, giving you the information first through the pages of the magazine and on our website Here we take a look back at the people and companies that hit the headlines.


The FSA rules come into affect changing the way car retailers advise and sell on insurance-based products. Most dealers become fully authorised, some become representatives, a few, including many independents, decide to stop selling insurance products like GAP and VRI. Update: the FSA has identified a number of authorised dealers that are not complying with the rules. The industry now has a yellow flag; it’s a matter of time before a dealer is forced to stop selling insurance.

Also in the news: Twenty retailers form the Retail Automotive Alliance, with 155 dealerships and a combined turnover of £2.1bn, to increase buying power and protect themselves from bigger groups.


The Auto Body Professionals Club forms to address industry issues between bodyshops, insurers and suppliers. Update: Progress is being made on developing minimum standards for the sector with the help of Thatcham.

Also in the news: The AM Awards night – Ron Sewell (pictured with sponsor Doug Day of Day Computers) is inaugurated into the new AM Hall of Fame; Peter Johnson is personality of the year; Listers of Coventry is retailer of the year.

Lookers pays £8.5m for Bristol Trade Centre as it expands in the used car market (it invests £12m to buy Ian Shipton in May). Dutton Forshaw acquires five sites, taking it to 30 and £480m turnover.


Lindsay Levin’s Whites Group, a former AM retailer of the year, quits car retailing after selling its VW/Audi businesses. The group retains its four bodyshops. Update: Levin blames the manufacturers for protracted negotiations – she had a buyer lined up for the whole group, they wanted her to sell each site individually. It took two years to sell all five dealerships.

Also in the news: Manheim acquires a controlling stake in e-GoodManners, the internet -based sales lead management system; Auto Trader hits new car market with price comparator product; Pendragon emerges as front runner to take on Hummer franchise next year.


MG Rover collapses after talks with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation stall. The Government launches an investigation. UK dealers are left with a £48m loss in unpaid bonuses and warranty claims. Update: After wrangling over the level of discounts dealers could receive on remaining stocks, the final cars have now been sold. Many dealers have refranchised, up to 80 sales points have closed.

MG Rover’s own 11 outlets went into administration and have now closed. Chinese carmaker Nanjing bought the assets and claims it will restart production at Longbridge next year in partnership with the GB Sports Car Company. Sceptics are unconvinced.


A month of job changes: Robert Forrester is promoted from Reg Vardy finance director to managing director; Andre Lacroix is Inchcape’s group chief executive designate (to replace Peter Johnson who becomes chairman in January 2006); Kevin Rose leaves Audi UK for the carmaker’s Wolfsburg head office (replaced by Jeremy Hicks in July); Bill Parfitt is promoted to Vauxhall managing director, replacing Kevin Wale who takes control of GM China; Stephen Odell is to become Ford of Britain chairman in July.

Also in the news: Concept Vehicle Leasing opens high street outlet; RMI reveals £5.6m pensions gap; Sytner buys QEK.


RAC parent Norwich Union acquires the nine-site, £38m turnover Solus bodyshop network in which it already had a stake. Speculation is rife that the group will be rebranded RAC Bodyshops.

Automotive Technician Accreditation scheme launched in a bid to raise standards by testing the competence of technicians. Update: more than 1,000 technicians have now signed up.

Priory, the £226m turnover, 11 outlet group, quits motor retailing. Meanwhile EMH acquires £280m Smith Knight Fay. Update: Reg Vardy buys five Priory sites and one bodyshop in July; Pendragon acquires Priory’s Bedford Autopark and three other sites.


Hyundai Motor Europe takes control for UK sales from Aviva-owned Hyundai Car UK. Update: Interim managing director Ray Pope is replaced by former Toyota operations director Tony Whitehorn in November.

Speedy 1 pays £800m for Kwik-Fit. Analysts predict the network will be broken up and sold off. Update: Kwik-Fit is going through a complete network refurbishment, due to be completed next year.

Also in the news: Kia signs up Pendragon, Arnold Clark and Reg Vardy. The three groups take 13 outlets. Nationwide Accident Repair Centres acquires Gemini, raising turnover from £115m to £140m and sites from 60 to 72.


EMG Holdings drops the Ford franchise at its eight dealerships after being a solus franchise since 1999. It is looking to replace Ford with multi franchises, including Kia, Mazda and Hyundai.

The RMI takes legal advice over the insistence from some carmakers like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus that dealers’ names are not displayed on the showroom. It believes the practice infringes the Block Exemption regulations because it makes it impossible for dealers to multi-franchise should they so choose.

Also in the news: Dieter Zetsche to be DaimlerChrysler chief executive in January; John Martin Group downsizes.


Royal Bank of Scotland sells Dixon Motors to a consortium headed by new chairman and chief executive John Haines. RBS retains a significant stake, thought to be around 20%, to give it influence over future decisions. Update: Dixon puts 11 dealerships on the market – Pendragon buys seven - and says it will close its PDI centre and relocate its head office. Turnover will fall by £100m to around £500m next year.

The RMI announces 14 redundancies as it restructures its business. Update: the trade association rebrands as the RMI Federation and changes its subscription to an annual charge plus usage fee for additional services.


Capital Chrysler goes into administration with the loss of 60 jobs. The group had two dealerships and one aftersales operation in London and was formed in February. Update: Chrysler is assessing its representation within the M25, but rules out increasing margins.

The SMMT unveils a code of practice for the servicing and repair industry. It comes just weeks after the British Institute launched a Kitemark for repairers.

The DVLA warns that police are likely to start investigating dealers who break the three-month rule on selling pre-registered stock. Many dealers say they are forced to carry out this practice to meet monthly manufacturer bonus targets.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# November

BP is to support a new drive-through mini-service concept that aims to complete services in 15 minutes. In ‘n’ Out will start operating in the Midlands next year and plans to have 300 sites within a few years.

Hertfordshire-based Charvill Brothers goes into administration. The £30m group employs 100 people at three Vauxhall dealerships and one Mazda site. Administrator Grant Thornton says the business is not viable and that redundancies are necessary.

Also in the news: Ewan Ramsay quits as head of DaimlerChrysler Retail to become Honda general manager, cars; British motor show plans business focus.


Pendragon bids 800p per share for Reg Vardy, which is accepted by the board, despite interest from Lookers. Shareholders have until December 23 to respond, although Lookers is expected to table a new offer. Sir Peter Vardy is tipped to re-enter the business with a handful of franchises, possibly with VW if the carmaker refuses to transfer its franchises to Pendragon.

Dealer management system provider ADP is to acquire rival Kerridge, the UK’s largest DMS. ADP Q an immediate setback – Kerridge supplies Reg Vardy’s 98 dealerships and stands to lose the contract if Pendragon (which owns Pinewood) acquires the group.

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