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Hatfield cover feature: New focus puts Mercedes loss in the shade

In 2000, Hatfields was a profitable £100m turnover business at No53 in the AM100. Then Mercedes-Benz decided to restructure its UK network, sacking existing franchised holders and putting the contracts out to tender. In 2002, Hatfields lost its three new car franchises.

The impact on turnover and profits was massive: the Mercedes-Benz dealerships accounted for a third of turnover and 65% of profits. Hatfields, left with Jaguar and ChryslerJeep, went through a rough patch.

Almost from scratch, owners Gareth and Justin Williams had to rebuild the group. Their starting point was to recognize its position of strength with existing Mercedes’ owners. Two former showrooms, Macclesfield and Pickering, were converted into authorized repairers, while for 18 months Hatfields imported Mercs from Belgium to sell from the sites. It sold 300-400 cars during that period, only stopping when transaction prices in the UK fell and squeezed out the profit.

The Pickering site has since been sold with the business moving to York. Hatfields no longer sells Mercedes cars, but retains its thriving authorized repairer operation and also sells vans from a site in Manchester. It estimates that it kept around half of the service/repair business after losing the Mercedes franchise and is now up to similar volumes achieved when it was an official Mercedes dealer.

“We represent an alternative to the gin palace,” managing director Gareth Williams says. “This business is not about bricks and mortar; it’s about people and process.”

Hatfields also has a Land Rover authorized repair site in Liverpool, which Williams claims is top for CSI.

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