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Insight: EFMDA Dealers unite to take control

Thirteen years ago, a bunch of dealers in the Eastbourne area, concerned about high advertising rates charged by the local Beckett newspapers, decided to pool their resources into a central buying group in an attempt to get a better deal. 

It resulted in the Eastbourne Franchised Motors Dealers Association, the precursor to today’s buying groups like the Retail Automotive Alliance and SMTA Trading Partners.

Six dealers made up the inaugural EFMDA: Martin Blackaby and John Ratcliffe from Caffyns; Sally Attfield, Ridley Volvo; Dennis Merrett, Chandlers BMW; Robert Maxwell, Mercedes-Benz; and Tony Collins from Collins Honda, who was thrust into the chairman’s role.

As his son and successor as EFMDA chairman Peter Collins puts it: “My father was the last one to turn up at the first meeting, so he was dumped in the role!”

Revised mission

The association’s solitary aim was to negotiate preferential advertising terms.

That mission was revised in 1998, again as a result of rising costs, only this time relating to Eastbourne Motor Show.

Set up in the early ’90s at the suggestion of the Eastbourne Tourist Board, the motor show rented the Winter Gardens from the local council with dealers paying for patches to display their cars.

By 1998, however, successive annual rent increases of 10% and falling visitor numbers meant the show was no longer viable for many dealers. The EFMDA decided to step in.

It appointed an events agency to organise the motor show and switched the date from winter to summer. 

Previous shows

For the past two years, the organiser has been Motorshow Events.

The latest event, held over two days in mid-July, attracted more than 12,000 visitors, eight times the number at the final Winter Gardens show.

Although slightly down on the previous year’s attendance, Collins claims the quality was higher. 

“We sold three cars off the stand, something we haven’t done for a while,” he says.

Research from Motorshow Events suggests the show plays a significant part in promoting dealers’ businesses to local car buyers (see panel). 

Visitors tend to be multi-car households, with 40% owning two cars and a third three or more cars.

A show with influence

Most striking is the claim that 21% of visitors choose their next vehicle at the show – which equates to more than 2,500 people/sales.

It’s a figure that should open the eyes of the local Vauxhall and BMW dealers who decided not to exhibit. 

The rules of exhibiting are strict. Only EFMDA members can buy a pitch (some dealers have the cost underwritten by their manufacturer partner) and all cars have to be either new or demonstrators.

“We have had local independent service and repair usinesses and internet sales sites wanting to exhibit but it’s a clash of interests so we said no,” says Collins.

  • Read this story in full in the 19 September 2008 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.

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