Built as an extension to the group’s motorcycle parts warehouse, the 9,775sq ft showroom will act as a satellite outlet to Ling’s main car sales operation in Lowestoft. Honda initially requested a site in Diss, but green belt laws and costs proved prohibitive, and allowed Ling’s to go ahead with the Harleston development.
“Harleston is the home of Ling’s,” says Mark Powell, dealer principal at the new dealership. “Keeping the business in the town is important to us. We’re one of the largest employers in the area and we’re going to lead on from the success Ling’s has had in Lowestoft.”
The multi-million pound showroom will feature up to four new cars, with room for 15 more outside.
These will be sold alongside other Honda products, including motorcycles and power equipment. There will be 30 staff at the site, with dedicated staff representing the different Honda products.
Geographically, the new site’s area overlaps slightly with that of the Lowestoft dealership, but Paul Barkshire, dealer principal at Lowestoft, hopes that it will be mainly residents of the Diss and Bungay areas that will visit the showroom. “At Lowestoft we’ve had people coming all the way from King’s Lynn. If you give customers the right experience then they will travel to your dealership,” he says.
This latest addition to the Ling’s group comes just a month after the Car Port supermarket opened at the Lowestoft site. The all-marque outlet is situated next door to the main Honda showroom and so far has seen sales figures averaging one car a day.
Barkshire is pleased with the Car Port’s performance and hopes that it will help build on Ling’s market share in the area. He says: “Currently we have just over 6% of the market share in our region, compared to Honda’s national average of 4%. But we really want to go over this. We’re looking to get a 12-15% market share.”
In its first year of operation, sales at the Lowestoft site totalled 200 new and 250 used cars. Next year, Barkshire hopes to achieve sales of 1,000 new and used vehicles, with another 400 targeted for the Car Port.
Brand marketing is a central focus for Ling’s, which has sought out new and innovative ways to promote its business. “We’ve got a branded BF150 powerboat that was on the water underneath the Red Arrows at the Lowestoft Airshow,” says Barkshire. “We’re also hoping to get the Honda powerboat series up here.”
Ling’s also takes its stand to local and county shows in order to promote itself, while its display team, the Bolddog Freestyle Team, is used to target younger customers.
Barkshire remains tight lipped about future expansion plans. “At the moment we’re concentrating on getting all our operations up and running fully,” he says.