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Cover feature: Multi-tasked Bill Parfitt looks to simplify retail relations

Lookers former chairman Fred Maguire, when once asked which of his franchises was the best profit performer, had no hesitation. It wasn’t his Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover or Lexus operations.

“Vauxhall,” he said, firmly. Other dealers agree, although it’s clear from talking to them that you need a certain level of volume to enjoy the higher returns. Smaller, rural dealers have complaints over margins, fleet deals and Vauxhall’s extensive discount schemes. But their financial plight has not gone unnoticed – it’s a major concern to Vauxhall Motors managing director Bill Parfitt.

“If dealers are not making the necessary returns then they are not doing a job for themselves or for us,” he says. “I’ve never seen a successful manufacturer without a successful dealer, or a successful dealer without a successful manufacturer. We are joined at the hip, whether we like it or not.”

Parfitt has set up a team of ex-dealer principals and finance directors to visit the poorer performers, typically those falling short of 1% return on sales, and those that are losing money.

“Overall retail performance for the three brands is improving and the number of underperformers is falling,” Parfitt says. The team of four consultants is split between two for the Vauxhall network and one apiece for Saab and Chevrolet. They analyse dealer accounts for shortcomings and address the financial concerns.

“The issues surround general business management, which result in high staff turnover. It’s often the smaller businesses that need help,” says Parfitt.

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