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Ownership change as new site opens

L&L Automotive has gone from “cornershop to superstore” with the opening of its third Mercedes-Benz showroom in Stevenage, the first time the manufacturer has had a presence in the rapidly expanding town.

The 30,000 sq ft dealership, on a 3.5-acre site, replaces the Hitchin site and is added to L&L’s refurbished Mercedes dealership in Hertford and its new-build operation in Bishop Stortford.

The group hopes to open a fourth site next year, in St Albans, which will replace its Harpenden outlet.

It will take investment in the Mercedes specialist well into double-figure millions of pounds over four years.

In addition to planning the new showroom, L&L has been through a change of ownership this year. In May, Guy Li sold his share to partner and managing director Brian Li (the two are not related).

Brian Li’s father Sir David Li, who also has interests outside the automotive industry, remains chairman.

At the same time as the reorganisation at the top, former Lancaster Group board director and HR Owen director David Presley joined L&L as brand director with day-to-day responsibility for the business.

He described Mercedes-Benz’s market area policy as a “sound concept”, adding: “It gives synergies so you can take cost out of the business. The key is to have quality processes and systems and to share best practices.”

And he said relationships with Mercedes were improving thanks to the work of the European dealer council FIAG which has given retailers a voice.

“Dialogue has improved over the past year and Mercedes understands with their own network some of the pressures we face.”

L&L turnover is likely to stay close to 2006’s £80m as the larger Stevenage dealership will replace both Hitchin and Harpenden sites until a site is found in St Albans.

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