By Professor Jim Saker
We’ve been told not to talk about it,’ was the reply. For the first time in many years, I was left lost for words – this was an exchange with a Scottish automotive student whose view on Scottish independence I had enquired about.
Professor Jim Saker is director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University’s Business School. He has been involved in the automotive industry for more than 20 years.
I am still not quite sure why his company had banned its people from talking about the topic, but it did spark a discussion among the rest of the group. It flagged up that few of us had really thought about the possible implications for the retail automotive sector of an independent Scotland.
Having ascertained that Scotland intends to continue using the DVLA, Driving Standards Agency and VOSA for the immediate future if independence goes through, we concluded that in the short term it may not affect things too much. However, if there were a different business tax regime or currency it may affect the way in which manufacturers behaved in the distribution of vehicles.
The conversation broke up and the members of the group went off to their session. I followed behind just close enough to hear the jaundiced comment from an English student: “Well at least if they get independence, it will stop them winning all the big prizes at the AM Awards.”
Having been part of the judging panel and having witnessed the detailed process of choosing this year’s winners, I was slightly shocked by the comment, but I did recall seeing a fair number of people in kilts go up on stage to receive awards in Birmingham.
I went to the office and looked at the results sheet and concluded that the jaundiced student may have had a slight point. Of the awards that were open to dealers, seven were won by people or groups associated with Scotland.
These included Best Training Programme, Excellence in Customer Service, Sales Team of the Year, Best Used Car Programme, Best Retail Group (under 10 dealers), Retailer of the Year and Business Leader of the Year.
There was definitely no bias in the judging – I had witnessed that myself – so why had the Scottish dealers done so well? Was it the nature of the people, the organisations or the market in Scotland that makes them as successful as they are in this type of competition?