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Russian car retailing giant eyes UK market entry

Russian car retail group boss Sergey Petrov is said to be eyeing a potential move into the UK franchised sector.

In an interview with Auto Express magazine, Petrov spelled out his plan to expand into Europe from his home market, where his Rolf group currently operates 62 showrooms across Moscow and St Petersburg – selling over 5% of the nation’s new cars.

Petrov, who is currently exiled amid a Russian arrest warrant levied for charges that he denies back in September last year, told Auto Express that his business operates in a western way and deals with western banks.

And he told the consumer publication that part of the challenge of entering the European market will be convincing potential partners that “not all Russians are equal”.

Petrov’s assertion that he wishes to enter the European franchised car retail market, having established his £3 billion turnover car retail group in Russia, has led to potential links with UK operations Lookers and Pendragon from some industry commentators.

Petrov told Auto Express that any potential deal which brings his operation to the UK would not be dependent on the sale of the existing Rolf business, nor did he rule out a joint venture between Rolf and a western dealer group.

While centred on customer care, his approach would look to focus on a philosophy of constant evolution, a characteristic which he appeared to indicate was missing from existing UK car retail businesses.

He told Auto Express: “They are running with old people who have been working for the company for more than 20 or 30 years. They don’t feel the need to compete. They don’t feel the need to improve.”

Petrov started his car retail business in Russia through a deal which saw him become the official importer of Mitsubishi Motor products back in 1992.

Rolf begun selling Hyundais at the turn of the century before branching out into premium marques, including Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

Speaking to AM ahead of the publication for this month's digital edition of AM magazine, which is set to be published this week, Steve Young, managing director of the ICDP, said that he expected any acquisition or merger of the AM100's top retail group's in 2020 to involve a foreign investor.

He believes that that “mega mergers”, like that explored by the leadership of Pendragon and Lookers, may be unlikely, but said: “If there is a move for those businesses, it’s likely to come from overseas.

“They provide a ready-made entry to numerous market areas without disrupting the market too much, so they could still represent an appealing prospect for an overseas investor.”

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