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A history of Cazoo: A look at used car dealer’s rapid rise and dramatic fall

  • Car Dealer delves into the archives to discover the short but chequered history of Cazoo
  • Firm launched to huge fanfare in 2019 but has gone on to make staggering losses
  • Retailer is currently undergoing a major cost cutting mission after pulling out of mainland Europe last year

Time 7:17 am, January 15, 2023

Originally published: Jan 15, 2023. Updated: March 31, 2023

Earlier this week, Cazoo announced an end to its sponsorship of Aston Villa when the expensive three-year-deal expires at the end of this season.

It was the latest cut made by the troubled firm as it looks to claw back mind-boggling losses, brought on by huge spending aimed at growing its brand.


So how did it all go so wrong so quickly for the retailer? How did a company backed by one of the country’s most successful businessmen turn into a money losing machine after promising so much?

You can watch our special investigation video into Cazoo above, but here we have been trawling the Car Dealer archives to put together a detailed history of Cazoo, from the rapid rise to the troubled times it finds itself in today.

2018-19

The first record we can find of us covering Cazoo came just over four years ago, in December 2018, when we reported that Alex Chesterman had raised more than £30m for his venture into the used car market.


The former Zoopla and Lovefilm boss was backed in those early days by seed funding from the owner of the Daily Mail newspaper, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), as well as Stride Capital, Octopus Ventures, Entree Capital and others.

Things then stepped up in 2019 with Cazoo signing partnership agreements with BCA before acquiring office space and securing even more funding.

The platform officially launched on December 2, 2019, with Car Dealer describing it as ‘one of the UK’s most exciting new tech businesses’.

Timeline: 

2020

Everton footballers sponsored by Cazoo

Cazoo kicked off 2020 with a multi-million-pound advertising campaign and ambitious plans to sell 217,000 cars a year by 2025.

However, there were early signs that the outfit may not turn into the money spinning operation many expected, with bosses admitting that they were anticipating losses of up to £70m in its first three years (more on that later).

However, there was still a general air of optimism around the company until Covid arrived and threw a spanner in the works.

In March 2020, the firm was forced to halt deliveries in response to the first national lockdowns of the pandemic.

That didn’t stop Chesterman and co continuing to invest heavily in the company and it signed a multi-million pound shirt sponsorship deal with Everton FC.


There were also several new sites opened and a number of existing companies bought up, including Imperial Cars, in July and Drover, in December.

2020 was also the year that Chesterman really began to annoy traditional car dealers with his comments on the industry, which he described as ‘flawed on every level’.

His attack was widely condemned by dealer bosses, including Swansway’s Peter Smyth, who said Britain had ‘the most sophisticated used car market in the world’.

Timeline: 

2021

Alex Chesterman rings the New York Stock Exchange bell, 27 Aug 2021

The following year began with a flurry of big stories coming out of Cazoo, chief among which were the first whispers that the firm was considering floatation on the New York Stock Exchange, at a ‘baffling‘ valuation of £5bn.

The move eventually came to fruition in August after the outfit had announced a string of further site openings, business acquisitions and sports sponsorships.

In March, Chesterman took yet another swipe at car dealers, labelling them untrusted’ and ‘permanently impaired’ but 2021 was not to be plain sailing for Cazoo.

In September, it was revealed that the company had lost a whopping £102m in the first six months of the year, sparking questions over its long-term profitability.

More accounts later showed an additional £102.7m loss for the whole of 2020 but bosses ploughed on with expansion plans by launching in mainland Europe.

Timeline: 

2022

Cazoo Manchester

Last year began as normal for Cazoo with the usual swathe of sponsorships and purchases announced in the opening months of 2022.

However, those financial worries stubbornly refused to go away and in May the situation came to a head with the release of an explosive dossier from Chesterman.

In the document, the boss admitted to investors that the firm may ‘may never achieve profitability’ despite the vast amounts of money pumped into it.

The problems continued to mount and in June a savage wave of cuts were announced, following losses of £243m.

Reacting to the news, Cazoo lost its chief financial officer, Stephen Morana and replaced him with Paul Woolf.

The rest of the year saw Cazoo go into free fall. More eye-watering losses were announced, the decision was made to withdraw from mainland Europe and December saw the company’s share price plummet to an all time low.

From that £8bn valuation the previous year, by the end of 2022, Cazoo was found itself valued at less than £80m.

This was also the year we produced a special 30 minute documentary about the firm, which can be watched at the top of this story.

Meanwhile, the company continued to divide opinion in the automotive world, as seen in our debate between Peter Smyth and Ajaz Ahmed.

Timeline: 

2023

The start of 2023 has not brought any better news for Cazoo as the firm continues its series of cutbacks and redundancies.

Just four days into the new year, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading in Cazoo warrants and started delisting proceedings.

That was followed by the news on January 12 that the firm’s Aston Villa sponsorship deal will end when current deal expires later this year before a major bombshell hit the outfit.

On the January 18, Alex Chesterman stood down from his position as CEO and the firm told staff that mass redundancies were likely in a bombshell call, leaked to Car Dealer.

It is unclear where the company goes from here but if their short history is anything to go by, expect fireworks!

Timeline so far…

What has Cazoo sponsored in recent years?

Since its launch back in 2019, Cazoo has ploughed millions into growing its profile via sports sponsorships.

While the Aston Villa and Everton deals were perhaps the most high-profile, the company has expanded into several other sports in recent years.

Here is an extensive list of the clubs, organisations and tournaments that Cazoo has put its name to…

What do you think about Cazoo? Do you think the firm has what it takes to ride out its current rough patch? Get in touch and let us know…


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Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.



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