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Seat boss 'loves' his dealers and promises to improve network relations

Seat UK director Neil Williamson believes 2014 will see the sixth successive year of growth in the UK, with it offering strengthened with the addition of the ST version of the Leon and the high-performance Cupra models - and closer working links with dealers.

"Dealers love the new Leon and it has really lifted the network," said Williamson.

Dealers have been Williamson's focus since he took the Seat UK job early last year. After eight years at Mercedes-Benz UK, steering the retail division through some difficult years, Williamson believes that he knows what dealers think and feel.

He spent his early months in his new role "taking the temperature" of the 124-strong network, speaking to the major players like Pendragon and Bristol Street Motors (Vertu) as well as the small family businesses which he describes as "local heroes". See the NFDA Dealer Attitude Survey results on Seat below.

"I think we could do better and need to engage more with our dealers," he said. So he has embarked on a 'love our dealers' strategy and has launched a franchise board or dealer council which meets quarterly.

"Dealers are our number one route to market," he said.

Retail sales have grown 30% to 20,000 units last year out of a total of 45,300, which itself was a record for Seat in the UK.

"Retail and good quality fleet is what dealers do best," said Williamson. While Leon ST is an obvious fleet sales opportunity, Williamson said that he wants to pull back from daily rental and believes there is still pent-up demand for cars like the Leon in the retail sector.

Leon Cupra will be seen at the Geneva Motor Show in March and go on sale in the UK later that month. Cupra models have accounted for around one-in-25 Leon sales.

"It's an important halo car for us," said Williamson, adding that he would like to sell more rather than just have them as an image booster.

Leon has proved popular since its launch last year. Sales in 2013 totalled 14,300 and with the arrival of the ST version this month, Williamson expects it to close in on the Ibiza as Seat's best seller; Ibiza sales last year were 19,770 units.

The Leon will be boosted in the second half of the year with the arrival of a four-wheel drive version, a first for Seat as it draws on the all-wheel drive technology of the VW Group.

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  • Gory ham - 22/01/2014 16:15

    Shame he didn't love the Seat dealership in Braintree that had the plug pulled on them, taking my company for £4200 in the process.

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  • Racer 47 - 22/01/2014 17:50

    Got to admit having had 3 leon FR DSG TDI's in the last 6 months, that the product has came on leaps and bounds, and I'd take a Leon over an A3 any day. The Value for money is superb and the layout and technology is excellent for a high miles driver.

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