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Renault Cardiff rules at awards

Staff at Renault Cardiff have won five of the 10 categories at Renault Retail Group Race for 2009 awards, including most successful region, shared with its sister dealership in Swansea.

The awards recognise progress towards targets set out by Renault Commitment 2009, aimed at improving the 25-site network’s performance under the key indicators of volume, profit and quality.

For Renault Cardiff, the praise follows a three-year turnaround for the dealership, transforming it from one of the group’s least profitable operations to one which now returns profits several times larger than the size of its former losses.

Its recent return to form was under the leadership of South Wales regional general manager Chris Williams, who joined the group in 2005.

Perhaps surprisingly, all bar one of the original management team is still in place, and Williams attributes the recent profitability to encouraging better self-belief among its existing staff.

“When I joined I could see the potential in all areas of the dealership. We have been successful by concentrating on volume, profit and quality all at the same time,” he said.

“You can’t focus on customer service alone and wait for more people to come in.

Likewise there’s no point focusing on growth without controlling overheads and without making sure customers receive excellent service.”

Renault Retail acquired former franchisee SL 16 years ago and shortly afterwards moved the operation to the purpose-built showroom it occupies today.

The former Dutton Forshaw Peugeot site is on Penarth Road, the hub of motor retail in Cardiff and home to most of its biggest showrooms.

Renault Cardiff now employs 104 staff, including a team of six new and five used car sales executives, both of which were named best in group at the awards.

Facilities include a 19-bay workshop and two-lane Renault Minute service centre, with the latter bringing better customer retention at a relatively low cost.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# “It’s still fairly new, but it is attracting older vehicles,” said Williams. ”There’s an element of familiarity: we treat the customer fairly, offer good service, they know where to park, and this comfort passes on to Minute. It’s a way to develop our offering.

“There’s no cost base other than the labour. We’ve got no second reception or courtesy cars. New and used cars are pre-booked for their next service, which goes through Minute.

It gives an element of retention, and on pre-booked appointments we can guarantee the price.”

The scale of the facility also allows it to take on large scale fleet business, a key factor in improving profitability.

An in-house business centre, with a staff of three, helps raise its profile to local businesses. Of the 4,400 new cars sold at Renault Cardiff each year, 3,000 are to business customers.

“The fleet market has improved, and we’re geared up to do the volume,” said Williams. “Others can struggle when they get to a certain volume, but we can chew up big orders and work with bigger accounts because of our service level.”

As regional manager, Williams is one of five members of Renault Retail’s recently restructured board, and is also responsible for the Swansea dealership.

Set to undergo a £370k revamp, the facility will eventually be replaced with a new build to bring it in line with the manufacturer’s standards.

But with an office above the showroom in Cardiff he remains close to the shop floor, creating a management structure which he believes is working well for the group.

“ was a business need,” he said. “Moans and groans are discussed and dealt with. It keeps the board and its decisions on ground level. We had a meeting yesterday, and I can come in and discuss everything with staff today. It works well for us.”

And with the redevelopment of the Swansea site, Williams is awaiting a range of new Renault models in the next year which will keep sales strong.

“The outlook is positive, it’s set to be an exciting 12 months. We’re the leader of the group, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” he said.

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