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Crystal takes on brand challenge

Crystal Motor Group boss Mike Baldry has experienced the motor industry from two sides of the fence.

It is only two years since he entered franchised motor retailing by taking on a Nissan showroom in Grantham, Lincolnshire. But prior to that he had a long career in vehicle leasing, culminating in launching and running BMW’s fleet management subsidiary, Alphabet GB, in 1997.

In 2003, Baldry decided on a change of direction and bought out previous Crystal boss Nick Outred, who had been trimming down his motor retail operation for several years. Then, in April this year, Baldry completed a £1m refurbishment of an abandoned car supermarket site in nearby Boston and opened his second showroom, dual-franchised with Nissan and Renault.

Both brands had been missing from Boston for 10 and five years respectively; an absence which, Baldry admits, has raised some challenges.

“Our main issues have been staffing it, and as there’s little data on local Nissan and Renault owners locally, there’s the issue of how to attract business into the workshop,” he says.

“Public awareness takes time to build. We still have to work on rebuilding the Crystal brand, although the name actually goes back 40 years or so under the Outreds.”

At the beginning of this year he acquired the assets, but not property, of Boston’s MG Rover dealership after Lincolnshire Co-Op withdrew from motor retailing, and transferred the staff to his new site.

This means that while the new franchises get established, the site also serves as a Rover aftersales specialist.

Nevertheless, he expects the Boston business to sell 1,000 to 1,200 new and used units a year from both franchises. Group turnover is expected to total £24m this year.

As far as Baldry is concerned, he has done his time as the head of a huge business while at Alphabet. Now his ambition is to make Crystal Motor Group a success, but he has no urge to push for massive growth. His next step is to move the Grantham Nissan dealership to a new home in the town.

“One reason I got into motor retailing is about having a bit more control over my own destiny as well as to create a profitable business that works well and keeps me happy.

“I don’t want to turn it into a mega-group,” he says.

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