“They made a bit of money working with me at Kia or earlier, and this will help next year when we start putting together a UK network,” he says.
Williams, managing director of Landwind Europe Motor Corporation from this month, has teamed up with Peter Bijvelds, the Dutch motor dealer who landed a pan-European contract to distribute the Landwind brand throughout the EU and in Switzerland.
After boosting Kia’s UK sales from 13,000 to 40,000 in three years, Williams became disillusioned with the manufacturer. He did not leave for the Landwind job, but it was one of a number of possibilities on his shortlist.
His experience is considerable: he left the Mitsubishi Motors sales and marketing role in 2002 to join Kia, and has headed Daihatsu UK. Earlier, he worked for Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Peugeot.
“There were jobs that would have been easier but the Landwind challenge appealed to me,” says Williams. “I believe the Chinese have a chance to achieve in five years in Europe what took the Koreans 15 years, and the Japanese 30.
“I will offer UK dealers the chance to have an early taste of a brand that I believe will be a big part of the global motor industry.”
Williams expects his infectious enthusiasm to play a major part in his task of appointing around 600 European dealers. It is, though, tempered by realism: he admits Landwinds can’t “yet” match Korean technology.
His initial targets are modest: to take, in year one, 1% each of Europe’s markets for the medium MPV and total 4x4 sectors.
His launch models will be the Fashion (a five- and seven-seater rival for the Citroën Picasso and Renault Scenic, but cheaper), and the X-Pedition, an upgraded version of Landwind’s Frontera-based SUV. Both were at the autumn Paris motor show.
Next summer, Landwind starts sales in mainland Europe markets, led by Germany, Benelux countries, France, Italy and Spain.
By 2008, right-hand drive Landwinds will be ready for an introduction into the UK, with first-year sales projected at 4,000 Fashions (petrol engine only) and 1,000 X-Peditions. By 2009, there will be a diesel-powered Fashion.
“I don’t have a fixed idea in my mind about whether UK dealers will be owner-drivers or plcs,” Williams says.
“What matters is attitude – the person responsible for selling Landwinds must have a hunger for it. This will be important after the initial novelty value of being the first to sell Chinese cars in the UK wears off.”
Initial costs for dealers will be modest, with Williams looking for 80-100sq m of showroom space. He expects many dealers to want to dual-franchise Landwind with another brand.
And the warranty? His old firm Kia has announced seven-year cover on the Cee’d. Landwind Europe has yet to decide on the length of its warranty. “We have some new ideas and we won’t reveal them until the press launch,” says Williams.