So far CMH has decentralized the business from its head office at Chichester. Chris Elvidge, managing director and finance director, is set to leave before the end of the month together with Steve Barry, regional finance controller.
Chairman Anthony Wickins has told AM that over the next three to four years, CMH is aiming to end up with just its West Country Mercedes-Benz dealerships at Exeter, Plymouth, Taunton and Truro. This means the disposal of Ford in Newbury and Basingstoke; Peugeot in Chichester, Basingstoke, Horsham and Haselmere; Citroën in Chichester and Basingstoke; Kia in Chichester, Vauxhall in Chichester; and Honda in Basingstoke.
Much of the property is owned by Deutsche Bank, since CMH’s sale and leaseback deal two years ago. The businesses trade under names including Broadbridge Heath Motor Company, City, Gowrings and Viking.
“These are our aspirations,” says Wickins. “We have agreed some deals, but contractually nothing has been achieved.”
Once the changes are complete, the group hopes to achieve a turnover of £100m annually. This means it will return to levels similar to those seen in 2001, before CMH began its growth drive. In the latest AM100, CMH turnover stood at £177m, down from £197m in 2005.
The group is in the process of selling its single Vauxhall dealership to an unknown buyer. The sale is expected to be completed by the end of the month. AM understands that CMH’s remaining dealerships will be made available to current management at the individual sites on a buy-out basis.
Wickins says that his retirement plans are the main reason behind the changes at CMH. His son, Mike Wickins, will take on the role of regional director for the West Country dealerships, while he will remain as chairman in a part-time capacity.
Last year, Elvidge and Wickins told AM they expected CMH to begin making “proper returns” and hoped to expand.
Elvidge, previously MD at East Midlands Co-Op Motor Group, has not made any plans, but he has previously expressed an interest in setting up his own dealership.