Former Pendragon CEO Trevor Finn has revealed he will be heading back to the industry with a new proposition for the market.
In a cryptic post on LinkedIn titled ‘Life after Pendragon’, Finn writes that he has been subject to ‘post-employment restrictions’ limiting what he could do after leaving the car dealer group a year ago.
However, he says he has spent that time travelling the world researching and believes there is a used car proposition to now take advantage of here.
He said: ‘So, what is next for me? I have been subject to post-employment restrictions that limited my activity in the UK until now.
‘But I have been busy understanding the evolution of new and used car distribution and my future part in it.
‘This has involved no fewer than 25 trips to European and USA markets which has reaffirmed what I see as the significant opportunity for used car profit growth.
‘I am excited to say that I will be launching the next chapter very soon – watch this space.’
Finn announced he would be retiring as chief executive of Pendragon in December 2018 after 30 years with the company and left last March.
So what does he have planned?
Well, his post is clearly focussed on used cars and the profits he believes can be generated from them as he reminisces about his success selling them at Pendragon.
He said: ‘In 2007, we launched a used car programme with the impact quickly being felt across the market – and still making an impact today.
‘Many in the industry saw it simply as a race to the bottom on price and missed the profound disciplines around stock management, vehicle preparation and sales process.
‘Between 2011 and 2015 bottom line used car profitability in our Evans Halshaw division increased 90 per cent to £42.5m.
‘Our focus on the used car market attracted investors that were previously uninterested in automotive retail’s old structures, but excited about the vision of growing used car market share and the huge opportunity that it offers.’
Finn points to the potential he saw in the Car Store model that was launched in 2015.
‘It was clear to me that we were a car dealer with a website not an online marketplace with a fulfilment network,’ he said.
‘We set about the changes needed to make the latter a reality and built a fully functioning online marketplace with buying, preparation and a retail network to support the customer demand.
‘By March 2019, the Car Store team had really accelerated the growth and profitability in a way we had not seen since the early days of the used car market – the team had bonded, and the numbers and data were all going in a positive direction.’
In September, Pendragon announced the closure of 22 Car Stores and a preparation centre after announcing a £32.2, loss in the first half of 2019. By the end of the year those losses had grown to £117.4m.
Former Jardine Motors boss Mark Herbet was appointed Finn’s successor in March 2019, but only lasted three months in the role. During his time there he identified losses in the group’s used car programme and began to pull the plug.
Behind closed doors it was rumoured the Pendragon board were split on their future direction and the used car proposition was at the heart of the disagreements.
Following Herbert’s departure the dealer group continued for months without a chief executive in what was a difficult year for the group. Bill Berman, who joined as executive chairman, was handed the top job this year at a time the company needs to stem losses and refocus its business.
It won’t help that the firm’s former CEO appears to be plotting a used car rival.
Date for your diary: Berman will be appearing on Car Dealer Live on May 22
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