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The big picture: An industry full of audits

The wrong biscuits: that’s all it took for one German carmaker to withhold a dealer’s bonus during an audit.

Such was the reaction to last issue’s Big Picture, from a wide range of franchises, that we are revisiting the subject, this time with some quotes from the industry. All, of course, anonymous – retailers know the consequences for sticking their heads over the parapet.

Carmakers say their standards are not intended to screw dealers or withhold bonuses. Bosses claim franchise agreements are in place to ensure the highest possible level of customer service (and privately, to prevent new entrants coming into the industry). A few now admit that they were a bit overzealous in setting the standards during the Block Exemption changes in 2003.

But there’s a difference between what carmaker bosses say and what happens out in the field.

Perhaps the message doesn’t filter down; perhaps the senior management are ignorant about what is happening at ground level. Or perhaps the problem really lies with the consultants that the carmakers employ to carry out the audits.

As one dealer says: “Some of these auditors are youngsters who have never been in the motor trade or seen a dealership at work. And they come in to tick boxes that say whether or not we will get our bonus. The motor trade is being run by people who don’t understand the industry.”

The sheer number of audits retailers face is also taking its toll. One Renault/Nissan retailer has faced 24 audits this year. He says his customer services manager spends around half her time preparing for and looking after auditors. How can that be good for customer service?

This is the way one dealer sums it up: “We won’t tell you how to make the cars; so you stop telling us how to sell them.”

Several dealers have rung or emailed AM calling for a national debate. Do you agree? Email me at: with your views.

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