Williamson said while the number of sponsored retailers has reduced there were still a couple in the network and there were no plans to migrate sponsored retailers out if they were doing well. In fact, successful ones with ability and ambition may be encouraged to expand, he said.
Relations with the franchised network could be improved. Dealers’ value of the franchise has hovered above or below the five out of 10 mark for three years. Williamson sees his role in improving this.
“I think we could do better and need to engage more with our dealers,” he said. In 2013, he embarked on a ‘Love our Dealers’ strategy and launched a franchise board, which meets quarterly.
“Dealers are our number one route to market. There’s no one type of dealer that works best for us. It’s across the spectrum, from the biggest in the UK to small family businesses with the brand for decades.”
A new Seat corporate identity is due to be announced later this year. It will bring new signage and revised showroom interiors with warmer oranges and reds to reflect the Spanish heritage of the brand. Williamson has already been in mock-ups of the new CI and says it will really help Seat to stand out.
Further in the future, technology is likely to play a greater role in the showroom. Williamson chairs a VW Group UK working party on digital marketing and is encouraging the sharing of ideas for all aspects from website browsing to in-showroom devices.
It has accelerated its customer relationship management (CRM) in 2013, with programmes to ensure the brand and dealers are quicker at talking to customers and prospects. In aftersales, since Seat launched online service booking for its network in 2012 it has already passed £1m of bookings, and its service plan for Seats up to 15 years old, branded ‘It’s Fixed’, has had 40,000 customers since its 2011 launch.
Driving Seat UK into new channels
Seat is stepping up its marketing, with an emphasis on using traditional channels more effectively. In 2013, Seat had a presence on television for 26 weeks. In 2014, that will increase to 37 weeks, promoting the Leon ST, the Cupra, the three- and five-door Leons plus the Ibiza. Now that the products have been getting necessary investment, the brand will receive it too.
It’s another benefit for Seat of being part of the large Volkswagen family. It can apply what is learned from the activities of the other brands. It will also gain business through the group fleet function, which is already engaged with almost all of the UK’s fleet and leasing industry through provision of their Audis, Škodas and Volkswagens.