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New Vauxhall plans

Vauxhall is putting greater emphasis on retail buyers, which has led to a growth in market share for the first time in 12 years.

The company says it has removed “impediments” to make it easier for retailers to push into the private sector, with sales up by more than 1% year-on-year.

Bill Parfitt, Vauxhall’s new managing director, points to improved communications with dealers, new programmes and a focus on volume bonuses.

“It is a tough and expensive strategy but it means our dealers are in a better position to close deals in the showroom. We keep our eye on bonuses and we have a range of initiatives like low rate finance and low insurance to help dealers,” he says.

“Some manufacturers try to manage the showroom but our job is to get customers, offer incentives and provide the products – it’s the dealers’ job to make the sale.”

Parfitt claims Vauxhall’s sales will continue to richen towards retail this year and into 2006, while withdrawing from short cycle fleet business. “Retail is still tough; it’s brutally aggressive and has skinny margins, but it locks in customers, and dealers can sell finance and get servicing in their own dealership,” he adds.

Vauxhall retailers need to improve servicing retention in the three- to seven-year-old car sector by exploiting new programmes such as ‘price for the job’ and a direct mail campaign.

“Retailers don’t always have the database to do direct mail effectively, but we can,” says Parfitt. “Our programmes are beginning to work.”

He believes the company still has some work to do on improving brand desirability with non-owners, despite enjoying strong levels of loyalty and awareness. The emphasis is on drive and excitement, flexibility and customer enthusiasm.

“Once customers are in the showroom dealers do a good job of picking up sales,” says Parfitt. With Vauxhall registrations to the end of July dipping by just under 1% in a market down almost 6%, Parfitt highlights gains in share (up from 12.78% to 13.45%) that has moved the company closer to Ford.

But while he takes “great pleasure in growing market share at our competitors’ expense,” Parfitt says it is not company policy to take the number one position from Ford.

“It would be foolish to watch just one other company and we won’t chase market share for the sake of it,” he says.

“We do not have a ‘beat Ford at any cost’ policy.”

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