CDL 2024

Our live blog from Car Dealer Live: The event, as it happened

Time 3:54 pm, March 7, 2024

Welcome to our live blog from today’s (March 7) conference at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon. 

Car Dealer Live will bring together a range of top car dealers and industry experts to speak about the issues facing the automotive industry.

Our team will be updating this page throughout the day with news from the sold-out event but you can still watch it as it happens by purchasing a streaming ticket here.

16:50 Car Dealer Live 2024 is over

And that’s a wrap! Many thanks to everyone for coming along today and to all our speakers for their truly fascinating insights.

We hope you all enjoyed yourselves at today’s interviews, panels and research sessions.

Replay tickets for the full event will be available to buy from tomorrow.

Safe journeys home! See you again!

16:22 Google’s Mohammad Lone reveals how its new Vehicle Ads format will work

Lone tells James Baggott that this means ‘small independents will be able to compete with big PLCs’.

‘Yes, investment will be part of it, but as with all Google products it allows small businesses to compete with much larger companies,’ he said.

‘The great thing is consumers are used to seeing the carousel at the top, even though this is a new product.’

15:54 James Baggott writes:

Just thinking back to my luxury dealer panel now I’ve had time to let it sink in. There were some interesting comments, most notably the panel’s thoughts on electric cars. Tom Hartley was particularly blunt.

‘I hate them,’ he said. ‘They’re not the future.’

Brett Ward from HR Owen was a little more diplomatic and slightly more positive – but with a number of car brands under the main dealers’ banner, that was unsurprising.

Tom Jaconelli of Romans made some interesting comments about Ferrari 296 models, too.

He said they are now available for around £200k and great value. ‘They have still got some way to drop,’ he added. ‘It’s a great car though and I’m surprised it’s so cheap.’

15:51 Jack Williams writes:

We all know that used EV prices plummeted last year but hearing Estelle Miller talk about how it affected EV Experts was really enlightening.

EV Experts is among the most impressive independent dealers around and how it rode that storm just proves it.

A lot of businesses wouldn’t have survived the past 18 months in EV Experts’ shoes but it found a way to survive. It’s great to hear that it’s doing so well and leading the way for used EV dealers.

15:48: James Baggott writes:

Comments from the independent dealers on the used car price drops caught my ear.

James McConville from Solo Car Sales said: ‘It was difficult and that was a really big drop in guide. For me, I thought certain cars would bounce back up but at a slightly different price. There were some opportunities. But it was hard.’

EV Experts’ Estelle Miller added on the EV price drops: ‘It was harder and more brutal than anyone predicted. We had to reduce the time between purchase and forecourt advertising.

‘The long lead times at main dealers for workshop work caused issues during this time. You need a short period of time between purchase and getting it advertised, especially when prices are dropping.’

14:48 Supercar dealers talk in our next panel

HR Owen’s Brett Ward was asked about the cost-of-living crisis and how that’s affected customers.

‘The used car market is different, and that’s where people are wanting better deals and wanting more for part-exchanges,’ he said.

Romans International’s Tom Jaconelli explains how this is a ‘passion business’ and that still drives people in difficult times.

‘Finance commission was down last year, although we’re seeing people getting used to that, or when car prices fall they don’t mind the rate as much,’ he said.

‘There’s a lot of cash around though and people paying cash, especially in the investment market.

’We are having difficult conversations with people who’ve lost money on their car, but this is a passion business and there’s definitely opportunities out there.’

Tom Hartley agrees that there have been difficult conversations with some customers but says, ‘what you lose on the swings, you make on the roundabout’.

When asked for the secret to his business success, he said: ‘What you put into it is what you get out, and I’ve given the car industry my life.’

14:26 James Tew from iVendi and Scott Sibley from Redgate Lodge take the stage

An audience member asks: ‘If 74% of consumers want to buy online, why aren’t they?’

iVendi boss James Tew says: ‘We can see they are using the tools. If you ask 10 friends what online buying is, they’ll all have a different view, especially when it comes to car buying.

‘I looked back at my notes from 2011 and I’ve got part-exchange settlement figures as the last thing we’ll get right, and I think that’ll happen.’

14:15 Jack Williams writes:

Wow! That was quite some interview with Peter Waddell. We heard about everything from his heartbreaking childhood to his wife’s handbag collection and occasionally some talk broke out about the used car industry!

His comments on Cazoo will certainly get attention given the current situation there, and his love for the motor trade definitely shone through.

Peter is a larger-than-life character and he had the audience in the palm of his hand throughout that brilliant chat.

13:59 Peter Waddell explains why Big Motoring World survives in a challenging market

James Baggott asked Peter Waddell how does his car supermarket survive when others haven’t.

‘You buy the cars or you don’t. People have got to believe in themselves,’ he said.

‘We’ve got to buy cars and we’ve got to keep buying them. It’s a machine.’

Peter Waddell Car Dealer Live 2024

13:55 Peter Waddell takes to the stage for the second keynote interview

The Big Motoring World CEO laughed at the question about Cazoo’s change of direction. ‘What do you think?’ he said. ‘We won’t be advertising our cars with Cazoo. We’re quite happy with Auto Trader.’

‘Many people have tried. I think the only people who will possibly do it is Google, because you have to go to them first before Auto Trader.’

ATG Car Dealer Live 2024

12:40 James Baggott writes:

Tim Smith of Automotive Transformation Group has said technology is ‘so complex right now and managing suppliers and training them on it is a big cost’ in his research session taking place right now.

He adds: ‘Getting the most out of technology in a dealership is about getting these technologies linked. Managing technology is a really important thing.

‘Omnichannel is really about connecting online and offline but there are many systems out there and it complicates things. Omnichannel should be about making the experience for consumers seamless and also moving the data around seamlessly.’

12:26 Jack Williams writes:

It’s been noticeable that all three of our manufacturer panels have cited a lack of government support for the switch to EVs.

The general consensus appears to be that there has been a lack of investment and nothing much in the way of consistent messaging from the government.

Yesterday’s Budget has also been criticised for a lack of help for EV buyers, but a general election later in the year could change that.

Car Dealer Live 2024

12:13 James Baggott writes:

We’ve moved on to our car manufacturer panel and unfortunately we’re still no clearer as to when EV brand Nio will launch in the UK.

Nio is still in the ‘planning stages’ and can’t say exactly when it’ll launch, says boss Matt Galvin during our car manufacturer panel.

He says the firm will launch with a direct-to-consumer model, like Tesla, when it does get here, though.

BYD’s Mark Blundell says the brand has enjoyed its first year in the UK and has launched three models. It’s invested in a car dealer franchise model that has been ‘successful’.

‘The road map for us is quite clear and we’re not stressing on hitting numbers. We want to get the basics right and feel we’re heading in the right direction,’ he adds.

‘Having lots of brands is a challenge and an opportunity,’ says Stellantis used car director Nicola Dobson.

She explains that Spoticar Direct – a direct-to-consumer used car model – is also ‘gaining traction’.

A fascinating panel with two new challenger brands combined with the might of Stellantis.

Microlino Car Dealer Live 24

12:10 Dave Brown writes:

Just had a great catch-up with Merlin Ouboter, pictured above, chief marketing officer of Microlino and here with us today at Car Dealer Live.

First examples of the quirky miniature EV – billed as a cross between a car and a motorbike – will be hitting UK roads this spring and the company is in advanced talks with potential dealer partners to make this happen.

11:58 Jack Williams writes:

That was some bombshell stuff from Dale Wyatt on EVs. The room laughs in agreement as he describes them as ‘a loss-making product that people don’t want’.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Suzuki can make electric cars work given the fact the ZEV mandate isn’t going anywhere!

Car Dealer Live 2024

11:43 James Baggott writes:

Our next headline interviewee at Car Dealer Live has quite literally just landed… Peter Waddell has arrived at Gaydon in his bright blue and black helicopter.

Waddell, who runs used car dealership group Big Motoring World Group, landed in the car park of the venue and will be taking to the stage at 13:45 to answer our questions.

It’ll be interesting to hear what Waddell has to say about yesterday’s Cazoo news…

11:37 James Baggott writes:

A staggering stat from Cox Automotive – its research suggests that diesel cars will account for just 3% of the market in just four years’ time.

‘The market has changed,’ says Dale Wyatt, Suzuki GB boss.

‘Diesel car buyers are switching to hybrids instead – not EVs.’

10:43 James Batchelor writes:

Interesting line from Auto Trader’s Catherine Faiers – ‘Follow your forecourt and not the auctions. This pricing disconnect is very hard to navigate and we don’t think it needs to be there with the amount of data available to dealers’.

She says AT is seeing more stable retail pricing, so there is no reason why this shouldn’t carry on and get back to a much more stable market. And for electric vehicles, she says 2024 will be the year EVs become ‘mainstream’.

10:30 We asked our audience which Chinese car brand will have the most success
Car Dealer Live poll

10:11 Robin Luscombe says Cazoo is ‘gone’

Franchised dealer panellists were asked about yesterday’s Cazoo news and the Luscombe Motors MD didn’t hold back.

A question from the audience to Robin Luscombe about Cazoo is met with his trademark wit and honesty.

He said: ‘They’ve had it, finished, gone. They can’t just give up without a fight, though. Looking at the share price yesterday I think Cazoo is worth less than my business now.’

10:03 James Batchelor writes:

Business has started well for our franchised dealer panel this year, but it’s clear there is an underlining realism from them all. ‘It’s a case of “finger in the air”,’ says Robin Luscombe, ‘but you have to be agile – we are changing day by day.’

‘We are right-sizing the business to the market and the business we can expect,’ says Chris Wiseman, MD of Wessex Garages.

He’s pleased with the way the year has started but is conscious the year will likely get tougher. ‘There is a huge disconnect – the EV market is good with the business market but the support needs to be with private, but it isn’t there.’

Chorley’s Sue Corkin added: ‘Like Robin says, it’s a day-by-day operation – you have to be thinking outside of the box, otherwise we won’t be around for much longer.’

9:54 Vardy talks about redundancies in his business

Peter Vardy discusses the recent redundancies he’s had to make in his business, explaining that these were difficult decisions that had to be made and he believes he’s ‘balanced the books’ now.

He was positive about the future though, saying: ‘We’re quite confident and excited going forward but we’ve had to make some difficult decisions.’

9:51 James Batchelor, associate editor, Car Dealer writes:

Really candid conversation from Peter Vardy, particularly around the difficulty his operation is facing surrounding brand-new electric cars. ‘It’s clear consumers don’t want them – they’re too expensive and there’s not enough places to charge them. The government cannot afford to support them.’

He’s on stage to a packed room – and everyone is hanging on to every one of his words. It’s wonderful such leaders as Peter feel comfortable opening up about the difficulties his company are facing.

9:35 Peter Vardy sets the record straight on his business

The Peter Vardy CEO kicks off Car Dealer Live with our first keynote interview and explains why he has decided to sell his used car dealerships and pull out of several car franchises, changing the focus of his business.

‘If there’s a price war, the Chinese will win,’ he said, commenting on yesterday’s Budget and adding ‘the government doesn’t have the money to incentivise people to buy electric cars’ and that they ‘want you to buy an electric car more than consumers want to’.

Car Dealer Live 2024

8:50 Guests begin to arrive at Car Dealer Live 2024

Doors are open, guests are arriving and litres of coffee are being consumed. Our schedule of interviews and panels begins at 9.30am with our first interview with Peter Vardy starting shortly after.

Car Dealer Live 8am

8:02 James Baggott writes:

We’re set up and ready to go with a big day of sessions for the motor trade here at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon. The chairs are laid out, the mics tested and the coffee is hot (which is handy as it’s very early).

I’m looking forward to a packed day chatting to some of the biggest names in the motor trade. Up first is Peter Vardy, our first headline interviewee. I caught up with him yesterday and know what he’s got to say will leave a lot in the room open-mouthed.

There have been plenty of rumours circulating about his business in recent weeks and today he’ll be setting the record straight about what’s really been going on.

Rebecca Chaplin's avatar

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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