TrustFord has seen its car sales volumes decline by around 40% during COVID-19 ‘Lockdown 3’ trading in England and Northern Ireland – but home delivery boom is driving commercial vehicle records.
Chairman and chief executive, Stuart Foulds, told AM that the business was driving ahead with the lessons learned from trading in H1, 2020, and had been able to maintain strong aftersales performance while achieving better than predicted success with LCVs during January.
Foulds said that car sales were running “at about 60% of where we’d normally be”, but added: “From a commercial vehicle point-of-view we have been absolutely smashing it out of the park thanks to demand from people in the home delivery sector. Our order books are full.
“We’re well over 100% of where we’d expect to be, well ahead of last year and well ahead of our plan.”
In 2019 TrustFord acquiring a further 5.5 acres to expand its Fleet and National Logistics Centre at Long Marston and opened a new 10-acre pre-delivery inspection (PDI) and vehicle preparation centre in Sherburn in Elmet amid plans in to grow its fleet volumes to “50,000 to 60,000”.
Foulds acknowledged the part played by these facilities in the resilient performance of the group during the COVID-19 crisis.
Its creation of new Parts Plus aftermarket trade centres has also benefited the business, with “robust sales”, he said.
Foulds said that aftersales was also proving to be resilient under lockdown conditions – running at around 90% or normal levels – but he said that this could improve with better communication of automotive restrictions to motorists.
He said: “I think some people are very anxious and uncertain about the extent of the stay at home message, particularly in Northern Ireland.
“Government has said that people can travel to have their vehicles maintained and that MOTs must still be carried out, but I think those points could be better communicated.”
Foulds described the lockdown restrictions currently in place in Northern Ireland –where click and collect is prohibited – as “archaic”.
He said that retailers had appealed to MPs across the Irish Sea, but understood there was caution about the perception of dispensations for certain sectors.
TrustFord has undergone a consolidation of its UK retail network in recent months.
In November its Alperton dealership site was offered for sale as part of the Ford brand’s rationalisation strategy which would see the franchise point’s sales functions moved to the Edgware Road showroom.
The sale coincided with the creation of a brand new 20-bay aftersales facility and Parts Plus franchise “just 200 yards away”, which opened last month.
Also part of the consolidation move was the closure of TrustFord’s Banstead dealership – consolidated into Epsom – and a move to shift the new car sales operations of Eltham and Perry Bar into Epsom and Erdington, respectively.
Bradford’s body shop facility has also been closed amid a slackening of demand for accident repair services.
But plans for a new SmatHub pop-up sales store at the Junction 32 retail park, in Castleford, and the creation of a new Ford showroom that will secure the group’s operations in Guernsey are both set to progress.
The SmartHub, which opened for a matter of days before ‘Lockdown 3’ was proving “hugely popular” with shoppers, according to Foulds.
In Guernsey, the end of the lease on its dealership at The Grange has triggered a plan to move its sales operations to a new facility on the site of its current aftersales facility at Longue Hougue. A planning application was entered back in October and the group is awaiting a verdict.
Foulds said: “That development will be transformative for us.”
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