IM Group expects Subaru and Isuzu UK to only break even this year, while Daihatsu is expected to remain profitable.
Andrew Edmiston, managing director of the importer, spoke to AM shortly after IM Group made 19 redundancies from all parts of its automotive business in order to prepare for the recession.
This year Daihatsu has enjoyed 2.01% growth in registrations, though Subaru’s new car sales dropped 15.8%.
Edmiston said the brand was moving away from its “turbo phenomenon”, when its rally-inspired Impreza models were in demand, to a diesel era with Subaru targeting new customers who want better economy as well as its all-wheel drive technology and dynamic driving character.
Subaru’s best year was 1999, when it achieved 12,000 registrations. In the next couple of years, Edmiston hopes to restore and overtake that, with a target of 15,000 units annually, but the market slowdown may delay that ambition.
Subaru had prepared a management structure, based on its 15,000 unit targets, of three general managers each in charge of a large region of the UK.
This was abandoned, and former Subaru managing director Sam Burton was brought in as sales director to lead the entire network’s sales strategy.
“Everybody is in for a tough time over the next two years. It’s not going to be a question of growth, but who loses the least ground,” Edmiston said.
He has no plans to reduce the network, even if sales decline.
Edmiston wants dealerships well-placed to attract new business and improve customer service.
The group’s profitability has been hurt by the strength of the yen, narrowing the margins left on cars imported from Japan.
But concern that IM Group’s UK automotive businesses will only break even is offset by performance in Scandinavia.