“Audi was powerless to prevent the deal, because Jardine already held its franchise, and any attempt at arm-twisting would have failed,” says the consultant.
“But Jeremy Hicks, the Audi UK managing director, is known to prefer strong regional groups. He’s wary of plcs, because they can be influenced by shareholder pressure, and can lack the passion and regional expertise of a privately-owned group.”
Audi UK declined to comment on the sale by Beechwood, part of Broughtons of Cheltenham, of its Audi centres at Sutton Coldfield and Halesowen, Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury.
Eamon Bradley, chief executive of Jardine Motors Group, also declined to comment. For Jardine, the acquisitions fill a geographical gap between its sites in Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington, and at Bristol.
The new sites will trade under the Lancaster brand.
Bradley’s group has experience in retailing luxury marques, holding two Bentley franchises. Broughton also has three Bentley outlets at Byfleet, Pangbourne and Cheltenham.
A motor industry analyst says: “Jardine Motors will view Audi as a brand with considerable potential for sales expansion and good profitability.
“The manufacturer is already challenging the Porsche 911 with the R8, and is expected to develop a competitor for the Boxster. Porsche has increased its stake in Volkswagen Group to 27.4%, and so will be watching Audi’s ambitious plans with interest.
“Broughton’s three Bentley outlets could be attractive to Jardine Motors Group, and a deal for the transfer of them sometime in the future cannot be ruled out.”
Broughton executives declined to comment on the future of the group, or the reasons for the sale of the Audi centres.
Beechwood Audi, now owned by Jardine