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Inchcape acquires Robert Smith M-B

The £18.1m acquisition of the North-west based Robert Smith Group has seen Inchcape’s representation of Mercedes-Benz almost double this month.

The purchase adds Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Liverpool, Warrington, Chester, Southport, West Kirby and Llandudno, plus a Smart showroom in Liverpool. According to Inchcape, these generated in 2004 total sales of 2,100 new cars, and 1,100 used vehicles.

Inchcape already retails the prestige German marque in Nottingham, Leicester, Mansfield, Loughborough, Oxford, Coventry, Derby and Stratford-upon-Avon. The addition of the Robert Smith Group gives it 14 Mercedes-Benz dealerships.

The Smith family, which has run Robert Smith Group for seven generations, is understood to have retained ownership of its two Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles outlets in North Wales and Liverpool, a Mercedes-Benz Trucks business in Liverpool, and a bodyshop in Chester. Chairman Talbot Smith had not returned AM’s calls as we went to press.

Inchcape chief executive Peter Johnson says: “This demonstrates our commitment to build upon our relationship with Mercedes-Benz, and leaves us well placed to continue delivering on our UK growth strat-egy of representing between 5% and 10% of our chosen partners’ national sales volumes.”

Major dealer groups generally look for large volume sales capability in order to keep costs lower and improve profitability.

During his time at Inchcape, Johnson has secured the dealer group the UK’s largest contiguous region of Mercedes-Benz representation.

Last June, it paid £28m for five of the marque’s dealerships from Southwell Motor Company in the East Midlands.

“Inchcape’s success in building scale contiguous territories should enhance returns for shareholders and improve customer service,” says Johnson.

In 12 months he will relinquish the chief executive’s seat to become non-executive chairman when current chairman Sir John Egan plans to retire. The company, which has a £4.2bn global turnover (£1.33bn in the UK), is seeking a replacement for Johnson.

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