The scheme is aimed at maintaining sales points and retaining good sales staff, who would be lost if the business closed down.
Managing director Lawrence Good told AM that Subaru is helping a handful of ageing dealers who would traditionally sell their showroom for redevelopment and retire, but are prevented by the stalling property market.
Subaru has identified talented managers within large groups who wish to run their own business. These will take over the business, lease the property from the owner and eventually buy the freehold.
“It’s introducing the new entrepreneurs to the old money,” said Good.
Benefits include a low-cost entry into business-ownership, and continued involvement of the owner on a small scale.
The first was Monks Heath Subaru in Macclesfield. Richard Roger, formerly dealer principal at Pendragon’s Stratstone Ferrari in Wilmslow, took over Monks Heath four months ago and rents the showroom from the previous operator.
He said: “I’d been with Pendragon for 15 years and at the same franchise for 18 years but I’d always wanted to do it on my own.”
Roger has a ‘put and pull option’ which gives him first refusal if the owner decides to sell the property.
“It gives me time to turn the business around and then acquire the freehold at a later date,” he said.
Subaru wants to broaden the reach of its network in the wake of its first diesel-powered vehicles. It will recruit 10 dealers by the end of this year and build the network to 100 by the end of 2009.
Good said 40 prospects have already shown interest.
Since the beginning of 2008, 10 new dealers have joined the network, some of which have replaced recently terminated franchisees.
Good said the avail- ability of diesel variants, such as in Legacy since March, was helping raise interest in the brand and winning conquest sales from Audi and Volkswagen.