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Car Dealer Live: Swansway Garages boss Peter Smyth hits back at Cazoo and reveals how group has handled 2020

Time 10 months ago

Swansway Garages director Peter Smyth gives his forthright opinion on new entrants to the automotive market including Cazoo and Cinch in an exclusive interview.

The lifelong motor trade veteran, whose family has been in the automotive business for decades, tells Car Dealer Live how Swansway has survived and thrived during a year of lockdowns.

But it’s the likes of online used car dealer Cazoo that have really got his back up, which you can see in the video interview above.


Not holding back, he says: ‘Mr Chestermen has done his best to agitate the trade. 

‘He described the used car trade in Britain as broken. Well, I’ve seen used car operations all over the world, and in the UK it’s far from broken.

‘I believe it’s the most sophisticated used car market in the world, and that also includes America.

‘He also called us “sharp elbowed salespeople”. I resent that statement. We are a family business. We live by our morals of caring, honest and proud and we live those values everyday.


‘I know people in the trade such as Eddie Hawthorne, Daksh Gupta and Robert Forrester – these are serious businessmen doing a serious job.’

Click here to be taken to the relevant section in the video.

Smyth says he thinks the BCA team have ‘seen the unicorn valuation’ of Cazoo and decided ‘they want a bit of that’ with Cinch.

He said: ‘I would say the jury’s out on Cinch and personally I think it might rattle a few cages of dealers who put their cars through the BCA option system.’

Growth

Speaking about how he and his two brothers run the successful north west dealer group he reveals how any boardroom decisions are a case of the trio working together.

Smyth also talks about how the family business started with a Toyota car dealership in 1970 and grew into the RRG Group – eventually sold in 2000.

Three years later, the family started Swansway, a company named after their family home, and has grown thanks to forging a close partnership with the VW Group.

Smyth said: ‘We’ve actually enjoyed probably the best November in our history.

‘We were very strong in used cars. In terms of volume, we actually sold and delivered – via click and collect – more cars in November 2020 than November 2019.’

Smyth says he thinks the motor trade is ‘very resilient’ and that people ‘massively underestimate’ the trade’s ability as retailers.

He added: ‘I’m talking about some of the new entrants who have come in, and I’m talking about the OEMs. We’re a resilient lot and we’re used to working on fine margins.


‘If I’m being frank, Covid has been very kind to the motor industry.’

He says the industry is performing well thanks to money saved not going on holiday, combined with those trying to avoid public transport.

And he says another boost has come from government loans being spent on new cars.

‘The controversial bit is I think it’s the loans people have got from the government that they’re spending on cars,’ he said. 

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‘It isn’t unheard of and you do hear people in the showrooms speaking that way. We’re seeing it particularly with Land Rover and high-end Audis – the RS products.’

Looking ahead, the Swansway director says he is ‘quietly optimistic’ about 2021.

He added: ‘We’ve got to be optimistic. Whatever hand we get dealt at Swansway, we’ll deal with it.’

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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