THESE are unprecedented times, but if we all stick together we can pull through.
Those were the rallying words of Marshall Motor Holdings chief executive Daksh Gupta when Car Dealer Magazine spoke to him about the effects of coronavirus on the automotive industry.
He said: ‘It’s going to be a challenge for the industry – not just for our industry but the whole of the UK, every business, every person in the country, everyone in the world quite frankly.
‘This is an unprecedented situation and we all have to be pragmatic at this time. We have to work together, we have to stay positive and we’ll get through it – we’ve gone through two world wars in this country.’
And he was full of praise for the UK’s leaders, saying: ‘I think the UK government is acting incredibly responsibly so far. They are taking good action.
‘Boris and Rishi are doing a great job of reassuring the nation. I think the support measures that they’re putting in place so far are fair and supportive to SMEs and to large businesses such as ourselves as well – and if they do get to read this, keep up the good work!’
Marshall has 119 dealerships across the country, which represent 24 manufacturers, and Gupta commented: ‘I have to give credit and thanks to all of our manufacturer partners. They have responded promptly, they’ve all taken decisive action, with all good actions around supporting us.’
Examples of easing the strain have been the removal of targets as well as mystery shops and parts bonus targets. Not only that, but they’ve been supporting Marshall with cashflows. ‘And for me, I think what that really symbolises is the symbiotic relationship between manufacturer partners and dealers.
‘At times, there will always be the occasional ding-dong between OEMs and retailers, but this is when that word ‘‘partnership’’ really comes into effect, and ours have responded admirably, and I thank them for their actions for what they’re doing for Marshall, and I’m sure I speak for many, many retailers across the country.’
Paying tribute to NHS staff for their ‘amazing’ hard work under extra pressure, he told how he’d said to colleagues via a company video that ‘now is the time to step up’. As such, Gupta told Car Dealer: ‘We’ve got a great business here at Marshall, we’ve done a pretty good job for many, many years and this is the time we have to step up again and be counted, but we’ll get through it. I’m very confident we’ll get through it.’
He said Marshall was ‘in a really strong position’, with virtually no debt, very low gearing and a £120m revolving credit facility, while earlier this month it announced ‘stellar’ results of £33.1m operating profit on a record £2.3bn revenue. External commentators had called Marshall ‘best in class’, he said, and added: ‘It’s now time to prove even more that we’re best in class.’
The company was, he said, a ‘very resilient’ business that was ‘in a strong position’ and he added: ‘We are taking positive actions to mitigate all the key drivers that you would expect at this particular point in time.’
Taking care of its workforce was also important to Marshall, said Gupta. ‘We’re going to look after our people at this time because they’ve looked after the business in the 12 years I’ve been here as CEO, and when we get through this period they’re going to look after the company again, so now’s the time to be looking after our people and that’s what we do.’
Gupta said: ‘We will do all the right things to balance the requirements of the business to continue to navigate through this unprecedented time and do the best for our colleagues. We’ve just done some extraordinary support measures for our people which we’re not required to do legally or contractually but we have an amazing culture here at the business.’
Gupta acknowledged that a slowdown in inquiries was inevitable, although its aftersales businesses was still ‘remarkably busy’, but he said they were monitoring things very closely and taking the situation very seriously, reviewing it day by day.
And he concluded by sending out this message to everyone: ‘It’s a very difficult time for everybody. Everyone is unsettled and anxious. At this time, as a nation we need to stick together and we’ll get through this. We have to trust our leaders and government to do the right thing and so far they’re doing exactly that. Anyone in the business sector: do the right things by your people, do the right things by your business and you’ll get through this.’