In today’s healthy new car market, it would be very easy to assume the carmaker’s brand is far and away the primary one in the retailing equation.
A manufacturer’s product marketing brings consumers to the dealerships. Once they are inside, its influence and rules then ensure, as much as possible, that the dealer completes the transaction to their satisfaction.
After the recession, the pressure is back on dealers to invest more in premises and technology and pay increasing attention to processes defined by the manufacturer to ensure a uniformity of experience throughout their centres, generating the expectation of universal goodwill among customers.
But what happens when a manufacturer’s product is not appealing to the customer, when a model is reaching the end of its lifecycle and the replacement is still some way off and the marketing campaign hasn’t started that will generate customer enquiries? Or what happens when a manufacturer’s product line-up is not as comprehensive as competitors’? If it has no MPV or mini-SUV?
To dealer group Glyn Hopkin, the answers to those questions are clear: the dealer steps in and its highly, continuously trained staff use their sales skills to ensure business takes place, sometimes despite the manufacturer model cycle.
The Romford-based group has more than 30 dealerships at 20 locations and has been growing recently – with the acquisition of a Marshall’s Nissan site in Cambridge in October – but from its formation in 1992 the principles have always been embedded.
Managing director Fraser Cohen explained that from day one – with no staff, no track record or customer base – founder and chairman Glyn Hopkin saw the business as a blank canvas “to commit 100% to doing things right”.
Cohen, who was Hopkin’s sales manager at the time, said: “Today, there’s a lot of emphasis on customer care and manufacturers put a lot of money behind it, but when the business first started, that wasn’t the case. It was down to us to motivate staff to do the best for customers. We said it then and we say it now in our inductions, if you’ve got good, motivated staff who want to look after customers, you’ll have a loyal customer base and the business will thrive.”
From the outset, staff wore Glyn Hopkin uniforms and name badges. Cohen said it wasn’t unusual for shoppers in his local supermarket to stop him and say “you work for my local dealer, don’t you?” as the business rapidly grew from a Nissan site in its hometown into Chelmsford, St Albans and Leyton in the 1990s with the Japanese brand.