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Lexus top, BMW is criticized

The RMIF is using its winter dealer attitude survey as a basis for discussions with manufacturers designed to bring about improvements for themselves and their dealer networks.

Prepared by the RMIF’s National Franchised Dealers Association, the survey reveals mounting worries about profitability and manufacturer control.

Dealers holding franchises for BMW, which for years enjoyed a high standing, reported that even they are now affected by industry-wide problems. BMW GB disputes the findings, although more than a third of its network (38%) responded. That compares to an average per franchise of 22%, and a survey total of 1,178 dealers.

The RMIF appears to want to stir manufacturers into action by heading its survey: ‘Beamer screamer – BMW dealers scream foul on profit potential and costs.’

BMW has slipped to seventh, with its dealers recording a rating of 7.3 compared with 8.9 two years ago. They score, from one to 10, the value of holding the franchise compared with all others.

Lexus remains top with 9.4, and its nearest rivals are Land Rover (8.5), Audi (8.3), Mini (8.2), Toyota (7.8) and Suzuki (7.7).

In addition to BMW/Mini, Subaru and Mazda are starting to slide in the view of their dealers, while there are signs of improvement for Mercedes-Benz, Citroën and Daihatsu.

Profit potential is of great concern to the majority of franchises. When asked whether it had increased over the past year, 72% of networks responded with a score below the 3.0 average “to show their dissatisfaction”.

The survey adds: “BMW sits at the bottom of the table with Fiat. This is BMW’s lowest ever score and worst position in the chart.” By contrast, Mercedes “moved dramatically up the ratings to fifth spot”.

A BMW UK spokesman says: “BMW is challenging its dealer network to continue to invest in facilities and personnel. Some will find this harder than others, particularly in the current difficult market climate, and we will work closely with them to address any underlying concerns.

“However, according to our own dealer attitudes survey, the majority of dealers are confident in the future and continue to make very healthy profits.”

Most dealers expect manufacturer control over their businesses to increase over the next 12 months (Daihatsu is an exception). Among networks expressing most concern are Lexus, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Mitsubishi and VW.

Confidence that manufacturers take their views into account before taking decisions that affect dealers has decreased (66% report a score below the average on ‘manufacturers listen’). Dealers are increasingly unhappy about dealer councils, too, with 61% reporting a score below the mid-point.

Sue Robinson, who is in charge of the NFDA, says: “Our working party of senior retail executives is continuing to analyse what we believe is wrong in the industry.

“It may be that too many cars are chasing too few sales, but something has to give. Dealers’ profits are affected, and all cannot be well for carmakers either.”

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