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Seat predicts its share of market will double soon

On the back of its best-ever first-quarter sales, Seat is bullishly predicting doubling its new car market share from 1.5% to 3% within a few years.

The time period is unspecified, but with new models due over the next two years and an overdue push into the fleet sector now underway (AM, October 6, 2006), retailers should expect to be hitting this objective by 2010.

In a 2.35m new car market, that equates to around 70,500 sales, up almost 38,000 on last year. Most will be incremental sales – Seat is investing almost £300m in development over the next 10 years – with the Altea Freetrack 4x4 due shortly and a Mondeo/Vectra rival within a couple of years. Other niche products will be developed from existing models.

Dealership throughput will rise, although Seat is looking to add 15-20 outlets to its 115-strong retail network to close open points.

Several of these are in high-cost urban areas where Seat will follow the example of group stablemates Audi, Volkswagen and Skoda by expanding its sponsored retailer scheme.

It has recently acquired a former Toyota site at Star City in Birmingham and an ex-MG Rover showroom in Bristol which will be run by independent operators.

“This will take us to eight sponsored retailer sites,” says Seat UK managing director Peter Wyhinny. “Within the next two to three years I see us in the high teens or even low 20s.”

Network expansion has taken longer than hoped, with appointments offset by resignations. In an interview with AM last September, Wyhinny said he wanted a network of 130-135 by 2008.

He now expects to reach the mid-120s and is close to finalising several agreements. Two more franchise managers have been added to the field team to help speed up the process.

In addition to growth in new car sales, Seat is keen for dealers to improve used car sales and aftersales. It is trailing a large used-car superstore-style operation with a dealer in Brent Cross in north London that could be rolled out elsewhere if it proves to be successful.

“We’re leasing open land near the North Circular that has more than 100 cars on display, mostly our own ex-company cars and some rental buybacks,” says Wyhinny. “The stock is available to the network through our online wholesale system. It was the dealer’s idea and gives us excellent visibility and brand presence in a very busy area.”

In aftersales, a new initiative called Pole Position is expected to encourage former customers back into the network. Dealers are given a template of offers and they fill in the labour rate and parts costs. Then Seat produces the marketing.

“It will help us re-connect to the customer,” adds Wyhinny.

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