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Dealer profile: Essex Auto Group

Today, as chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council, a role he returned to in 2010 for a second term, Maskell is passionate about the manufacturer and the way franchise owners and the carmaker’s UK management are working together to improve fortunes. He describes it as a best practice model.

“I’m proud of what the dealer council is doing with Ford’s senior management.

"The committee works closely with them, and a sign of the co-operation is that last year Ford was the first major manufacturer to sign up the whole network on the new agreements.

"The network has retained most of the rights under the old contracts.”

He said another sign of its co-operative approach was that around 80 franchise owners met with Ford of Britain’s directors at the end of February to discuss ways to progress their partnerships and profitability.

The meeting was extremely constructive, Maskell said. “Together we want to make the ownership of a great franchise even better.”

He praised Ford’s current product range as the best in its history, with exceptional standards of design, engineering and quality, as proven by a dramatic reduction in warranty cost.

The dealer council fully supports the work started in 2010 by preceding Ford of Britain managing director Nigel Sharp to challenge the discounting culture long associated with the volume manufacturers.

Maskell said it will take time, because it requires a change of mindset. “In fairness to Ford, it wants to maintain market leadership. We’re totally behind that because it’s a volume dealership model.”

Ford has been heavily engaged with the network with a dealer support plan covering a diverse variety of actions to reduce cost and enhance revenues.

An example is new car stock held centrally by Ford rather than ring-fenced by dealers, to protect the network from the cost of overage and excess units and to allow all dealers to sell from the pool.

There is room for improvement.

The council believes competition between network members is distracting dealers from optimising their real conquest sales for Ford.

Winning customers from other brands will bring better dividends and secure more volume for the manufacturer, profitably strengthening its position as a clear market leader.

“There’s a lot of wasted money in intra-brand competition. It’s a concern for the franchise and the industry as a whole,” Maskell added.

“With the retail market flat, that’s a serious concern.”

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