The chairman of the government's Treasury Select Committee described a visit to Inchcape’s Loughborough Mercedes-Benz facility as “an eye-opener” after accepting an invite to visit from the NFDA.
The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough, met with NFDA director Sue Robinson and NFDA head of business development, Louise Wallis, with the franchise’s recently-appointed general manager, Dougie Singh, on Friday.
Robinson and Wallis touched on matters currently affecting the franchised dealer sector – including Brexit and the recent negativity surrounding PCPs – and also highlighted their latest campaign surrounding the effects of debit card charges on businesses.
Morgan, meanwhile, was keen to get a feel for the industry as a whole and embarked on a tour of the facility, led by Singh.
She said: “I’ve driven past the dealership on many occasions and I think it highlights the lack of understanding of the industry that I, like many people I’m sure, just thought of it as a Mercedes-Benz dealership.
“The Inchcape business I wasn’t aware of at all and I was keen to learn about the make-up of the retail side of the automotive sector.
“I’ve have got to see behind the name over the door and got to know a little about how big the sector is.
“It’s great to gain an awareness of a business which is clearly a big contributor to the community and one that really does function as a good gauge of where the economy is doing as a whole.”
Robinson explained to Morgan that, while the UK’s car manufacturing business is often seen as “sexier” than the retail side of the industry, it employs around 200,000 people, compared to the customer-facing sector’s 600,000.
Morgan was keen to hear about the recruitment issues faced by the business and said that she was pleased to hear that Inchcape had recently taken on six graduates and had a school placement working at the Loughborough site.
Explaining the effects of card charge legislation changes that are set to form the basis of her latest campaign for the NFDA, Wallis told Morgan that some dealers look set to suffer to the tune of “£250,000-a-year”.
Wallis said: “The main issue is that, with the 50p cap on credit card charges having been removed, it means that - for high value transactions - the cost is now £20 for every £10,000 which is huge for dealers trading in thousands of cars each year.
“On food and drink restaurants the proportion of the fee has gone down, but in this sector we have had the biggest rise of the lot.”
Morgan took notes on the meeting and described her insight into the industry as “an eye opener”.
She admitted, however, that her contact with car dealers had been limited in recent years, however, having recently replaced her car after 14 years of ownership.
Her vehicle was replaced in a long-distance transaction with a South Yorkshire business, the deal having been done before her husband travelled from Loughborough to collect it.
She said: “I have to say, my experience was limited, but very painless. I was very happy with the process.”