He is confident of recouping all investment in eco-linked initiatives within 10 years and believes customers are responding “by thinking of saving pennies in their pockets if not the planet”.
The sharp rise in fuel prices recently is making customers much more interested in CO2 figures. “The prospect of a 115g/km Ford Focus has a meaning for people which it would not have done even two years ago,” said Woodhouse.
When Sandicliffe launched Eco-Drive, managing director Reg Tutt forecast it would save the business money. This year the company will introduce more sophisticated methods of measuring whether savings are linked to the programme.
Woodhouse said: “Some measures have been easy to spot. We realised we had the workshop gas heaters going full blast in cold weather, but the doors were often left open when cars were being driven in and out. So we invested in a system that cuts off the heaters when a door is left open. This alone is making big savings now the cost of gas has risen.
“We’re looking at solar panels now but we’re wary because the growing interest in saving energy is attracting crooks into the sector.”
Sandicliffe’s marketing programme has been based on posters, leaflets with fuel-saving tips and information on the group’s website. One important aspect is that a tree is planted in the National Forest for each vehicle sold (around 12,000 in 2007). A three-year agreement runs to the end of next year.
“Some carbon-offset programmes mean trees are planted in rain forests, which is good. But ours contribute to the National Forest in the east Midlands, so customers can go to see the trees in years to come,” Woodhouse said.