The managing director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK said he is pleased how well its dealers are responding to the Japanese brand’s rapid increase in sales volume this year.
MMUK’s new car registrations are up 93% year to date, which is more than MMUK had forecast.
A crucial driver of that has been Outlander PHEV, the plug-in hybrid SUV that is priced on par with a turbodiesel, with 3,000 units sold within three months of going on sale, but MD Lance Bradley said it “has taken the rest of the range with it”.
ASX is up 35%, Outlander diesel up 40%, Shogun is up more than 60%, L200 is up 25% and Mirage is similar to last year, he said.
“Our sales are up 93% this year and even if you plan for it that’s quite a lot. Almost every week we’re revising our forecasts. It is a challenge, but it’s a bloody good challenge, and I’d rather have that than a challenge of what are we going to sell next week.
“There are things we’ve had to do differently. We hold a reasonable amount of stock in the UK because lead times are quite long so our process is set up so that a boat come in, gets unloaded, the cars go into storage, a dealer calls one off as sold and it gets sent to the dealer.
"But suddenly we have boats with 700 vehicles on them that are arriving all already sold, and the dealers want to know why they can’t have them delivered the next day.
"It’s a totally different challenge, but it’s a lovely problem to have.”
MMUK is investing £4 million to expand the capacity of its vehicle import centre at Royal Portbury Dock, Bristol. An area the size of 15 football pitches will soon accommodate an additional 2,300 vehicles, creating 15 new jobs. The facility, which allows for final assembly of vehicles to UK specification, now has an expanded capacity of 9,000 vehicles.
Decade high profits
Bradley said that not only is volume up but dealer profits as at the end of July were the highest they’ve been in 10 years.
The network’s average return on sales is exceeding the ASE stated UK average of 1.51%, and he said the margin Mitsubishi dealers are taking out of Outlander PHEV is significantly higher than anything else.
The brand is also expanding. It has recruited 12 new dealers since April and still wants another 10 to 15 more sales points filled to ensure full coverage.
“If a dealer is reading this thinking 'do they need one where I am', if their nearest Mitsubishi is half an hour or more away then we probably do,” he added.
MMUK has worked hard with the dealer network to train it and make it aware of the fleet opportunity with Outlander PHEV.
Bradley said his dealers have always sold the L200 pick-up to their local businesses, but the experience of dealing with company car users has been limited.
“In most ways company car drivers are exactly the same as a retail customer but in a few ways they’re different and it’s important for dealers to understand this. They’ll buy through a leasing company so the dealer will get paid in a different way, and often they will want a longer test drive, so we’ve allowed the dealers to have additional demonstrators to cope with this.”
Most Mitsubishi dealers now have two PHEVs and some have four, he added.
In the summer MMUK launched a Company Car Charter which ensures a minimum service level from all dealers who sign up to it. All franchisees have signed. In addition, a network of a dozen dealers each with its own specialist fleet department ensures national coverage.