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The UK’s motor retail industry can quickly be brought into disrepute


It is a major challenge for the UK’s motor retail industry that it can be so quickly brought into disrepute. Given the limited powers and resources that our trade bodies have, surely it must fall to the manufacturers themselves to tackle this issue.

I have been reminded of the challenge the sector faces by a number of recent incidents:

• The advertising watchdog has tackled a deliberatively provocative leasing broker for the inappropriate and offensive language used in its website marketing. But the watchdog’s powers are limited. So will we see carmakers refuse publicly to allow new cars to be supplied to this company? Unlikely, in my view.

• A saga of a Ford dealership failing to even start repairs to a Galaxy a week after it was booked in by a customer who had been loyal for 11 years, involving an abysmal trail of unreturned calls, ignored messages, excuses and even a service manager who hid rather than try to defuse the situation. The recompense after Ford intervened? An apology and about 15% knocked off the bill. The dealership has made several thousands of pounds in profit from this customer over the years, who now holds it in disrepute.

• Manufacturers continue to be taken to task about emissions issues. Volkswagen Group has accepted a €1 billion fine in Germany for its defeat devices. Mercedes-Benz is recalling thousands of diesel cars fitted with an emissions ‘shut-off device’, and in February, BMW called in 12,000 cars over a diesel emissions issue.

Manufacturers, with their national voice and significant marketing budgets, need to invest in creating trust in our industry, and in spreading that message. Among the millions of customers they and their dealer networks serve annually, there must be sufficient stories to balance the disrepute. Sell the right experience, sell more cars.

The July 2018 issue of AM - Automotive Management is out now.

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