“Now we try to grow sensibly while trying to bring gearing down.”
Making good of the new, expanded business means Robinson aspires to a national average RoS in the short term. For Toyota, this is about 1.6%, with the top quartile approaching 4%.
“But do the marques we represent overall give us the opportunity to be amongst the best? Probably not. A sensible objective in the medium term would be 2%.”
This will be achieved through, of course, increasing revenue and managing costs.
Vantage isn’t a lifestyle business. “We want to invest every groat of profit back into the business to strengthen it.”
Virtually everything Vantage makes, apart from the salaries the directors pay themselves, goes back into the business. “Look at the standard of facilities we operate. I’d stop short of saying I have OCD, but they mean everything to me. Owning property as well encourages you to look after your investment.”
Vantage has further expansion on the horizon
After a period of consolidation, what comes next? Robinson has it mapped out: “2014 was about consolidation and focus on the development activity in the business. The next move is another acquisition with a partner we’re already representing.
“Also, as a result of our profile changing in the last 12/18 months, we’re starting to receive interest from manufacturers we don’t represent. But we’re not deal junkies. Deal junkies deliver junk deals. We will remain true to our core principles. We only want to represent manufacturers with a vision for growth, which they can demonstrate to me. And as a petrolhead, they have to offer product I would want to drive.”
The brand portfolio will grow too, with Robinson hinting at adding a German marque to the mix. Details are not available, but Robinson is specific about the rationale behind his current brand partners and the importance of brand power.
He says he has 100% belief in Toyota, owing them a debt from when he was a sponsored retailer in 2003, and then as now, being able to speak confidently of its position today in the market, where it wants to be and how it is going to achieve this, with “everyone in the business sharing the vision”.
Toyota also recognises that after the customer, the dealer is the second priority since without a dedicated retail network it doesn’t have a future, Robinson said. This has led to a stable network, of about 180 franchised outlets for the past 10 years.
However, Robinson, who is chairman of the Toyota dealer council this year, acknowledges that there are challenges.