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Willis takes charge at Saudi's Hartwell

Hartwell plc’s finance director Graeme Willis has been promoted to managing director following the departure of his predecessor Christopher Langley.

Ed McCabe has also left, replaced as chairman by John Keenan.

Willis, who declined AM’s request for an interview to discuss the changes, is highly regarded by Hartwell’s parent company, the Saudi-based ALJ Group (Abdul Latif Jameel Company).

In June’s AM100, Hartwell was at No 13, with a turnover of £675m. It has 44 outlets and its main manufacturer links are with Ford (16 dealerships), Vauxhall (10) and Volkswagen (four).

UK automotive analysts are now closely watching Hartwell to see whether Willis reshapes the group, which was acquired by ALJ in 1990.

Under Langley, Hartwell set up a central administration centre to process paperwork on all showroom deals. Hartwell is thought to have reverted to dealerships taking responsibility for their own paperwork.

A centralized system saves money but Willis is thought to be concerned about the affect on customer relations because mistakes are inevitable during so many document movements. Last year, Hartwell sold an estimated 50,000 vehicles.

One analyst says: “It looks as though Willis has been told to nail things down in the UK. He is a trusted ALJ heavyweight, with responsibilities wider than automotive, and has worked for the group in the Middle East.

“We are waiting to see whether he makes changes at Hartwell, which has a lot of Ford franchises.”

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