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The Big Picture: All change at the top

The UK motor industry is going through a state of flux with a number of senior management changes.

Toyota (Graham Smith), Seat (Kevin James), ChryslerJeep (Simon Elliott), Kia (Paul Williams), Nissan (Bill Bosley), Land Rover (Matthew Taylor) and Chevrolet (Andy Carroll) have all seen people leave and are in the process of appointing or have appointed new men at the top – note men, the industry is still lagging behind when it comes to appointing women.

The latest to join the throng is Volvo, which has just announced a replacement for Hugh Reid. That’s eight changes this year.

A new MD usually means some change, either in the manufacturer’s strategy, in the method to achieve an existing strategy or simply in relationships.

Looking at the latest Sewells and RMIF dealer attitude surveys, retailers will be hoping the change of guard will alter relationships with some of these companies – notably Kia which, despite its relentless sales growth over the past five years, fares poorly in the attitude surveys.

Toyota will continue on its slow-but sure growth path; Seat will continue to push its sporty credentials; ChryslerJeep needs to ensure a successful first year for Dodge; Nissan has to ensure its focus on LCVs, 4x4s and pick-ups isn’t to the detriment of its cars (down YTD by 26%); Land Rover has to keep dealers motivated during its showroom refurbishment programme; Chevrolet has just come through its brand reinvention but still needs to establish its market positioning.

Headhunting firms have never been busier. Appointments have also been made at LDV following the change of ownership, a deal is being put in place for Aston Martin, and the first roles are being filled at the Nissan-owned Infiniti premium brand as it prepares for European launch in 2008.

And now Lancia has announced a return to the UK, also around 2008, which is likely to mean a UK managing director.

The proactive dealers are already establishing relationships.

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