He says the decision to produce common standards was taken to persuade Vauxhall retailers looking to add a second brand to choose another GM franchise rather than a rival marque.
“After the Block Exemption changes we looked back and saw an opportunity to simplify the contracts and get more alignment between our three brands,” Browning says. “We worked with dealers on the areas to align and simplify. The changes were made at the end of 2005 and were implemented this year, which reduced the number of standards.
“The objective was for dealers that want more than one brand to make their showroom more viable to add another GM brand, rather than go outside the family.”
Browning says there are still opportunities for dual and multi-brand showrooms in the UK. GM has a single network planning team responsible for developing the three retail networks, which ensures maximum overlap.
He believes all three brands have an opportunity to grow sales, particularly Chevrolet and Saab, while Vauxhall’s focus is on remixing the business away from short-term rental deals.
“We started this last year and will continue this year. The mix changes put more emphasis on B2B and retail sales. Around 20,000 cars will be remixed this year from that channel.”
Speculation about the future of Ellesmere Port – media reports suggest next generation Astra production could move to Saab’s Trollhattan plant in Sweden – was dampened, but not dismissed.
However, it seems likely that one of the four plants assembling the current Astra (the others are Bochum in Germany, Antwerp in Belgium and Poland) will shut due to an anticipated drop in European sales. A decision will be made later this year and will be based on productivity levels.
“Both Ellesmere Port and Luton have made progress on their performance but they have to continue to ensure we protect those sites,” Browning says.
“The industry is becoming more competitive and every plant the world over has to show improvements on productivity, efficiency and cost. There’s no room for complacency.”