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Nissan accused of 'cloak and dagger' tactics to axe over 20 car dealerships

Nissan GB dealership sign

Nissan has been accused of attempting to carry out a “cloak and dagger” restructure of its franchised car retail network which will axe some of its longest serving and top-performing franchised car dealers.

The OEM broke its silence on its 'Ideal Network Plan' last night (July 7) after terminating a number of high-performing retailers with no formal announcement, consultation or public announcement prior to enquiries made by AM earlier this week, with those already part of the cull told not to discuss the plan.

Franchisees impacted by the cuts, which will reduce the network from around 166 sites to 140, told AM they have been issued two-year termination notices with little or no direct contact with representatives from the OEM, adding that they have been left feeling “cast aside” by a brand partner more concerned with avoiding bad publicity than damaging businesses.

Aggrieved business leaders claim they have been told that the axing of certain retailers is in no way related to their performance, but the result of a geographically-determined plan based on “pins on a map” that will prioritise group representation over smaller operators.

One told AM: “There is no loyalty, no recognition of achievement or performance, they are just wielding the axe depending on your location without a second-thought. It’s a case of pins in a map.

“I’ve asked for details of the new strategy, and I’ve been told it’s ‘none of my business’. The way we’ve been treated is appalling.”

Another aggrieved retailer said: “The speed and ruthlessness of what the brand is doing – with no consultation and a complete unwillingness to discuss the plan – is a huge kick in the teeth.

Nissan's new Ariya EV SUV opens for orders“There’s been no warning, no transparency and it’s clear that Nissan is trying to make these sweeping changes without anyone being noticed. We’re expected to just leave quietly. It's all very cloak and dagger.

“They haven’t spared a thought for our businesses, it's as though their only thought is that they don’t want the negative publicity during the launch of Ariya, they’re petrified of it.”

Nissan broke its silence on its plans in a statement issued to AM yesterday (July 7), but retailers in the wider Nissan network have yet to be given any formal communications on the cuts.

In its statement, Nissan, which had already cut its network from around 200 sites in 2017 to 166 in Q4 last year, said it continually reviews its operations in order to meet ever-changing industry challenges and to build a sustainable business with partners for the future.

It said that “changes to consumer needs will require constant evolution" adding that, in order to meet these challenges, increased investments are needed from retail partners in the key areas of digitisation, facilities and infrastructure.

Nissan GB managing director, Andrew HumberstoneAndrew Humberstone, managing director of Nissan GB, would only state that Nissan was reshaping its territories in an OEM profile feature with AM in October last year, adding that the future is in “fewer, bigger, better” sales points and that, thanks to good profitability, its 67 franchisees can invest where Nissan needs them to.

But he had already revealed he was less concerned with market share than it had been in recent years, suggesting that the new focus would be “very much value over volume”.

In Nissan’s latest statement, he said: “We recognise ongoing cost and revenue pressures that our partners face and the need to create a sustainable business model that supports the investments required.

“In order to deliver this we need a more focussed network footprint that will ensure better service to our customers.”

Under its Ideal Network Plan Nissan said it will have a UK representation of around 140 sales sites and approximately 180 service centres. This will ensure an excellent customer sales experience and a service proposition that is very similar to today.

It claims that customers will see their average drive time increase of only one minute to their nearest Nissan dealership.

In response to AM's reports, Nissan GB claimed that it had been taking "every measure possible" to engage affected retailers in an "open, frank and personal way".

It added: "We have been visiting each affected site for face-to-face meetings on the Ideal Network Plan and have conducted all conversations with partners in a professional manner.

"Dealers would not expect advance notification of termination, but do expect professional courtesy during the conversation, hence why we are visiting each site in person.”

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