Stop scoring own goals, franchise sector is urged

Automotive retail consultant James Litton has penned an open letter to the CEOs of franchised dealerships

Time 9:00 am, June 12, 2022

All – It has come to my attention that many of you have been discussing the need to take on Cazoo with a fresh approach to used car retailing.

The most cited word seems to be ‘transparency’.

One insider told me that its group has now uniformly priced all its used cars purely on model group, age and mileage in order to be ‘transparent’.

This is regardless of specification, ownership, service history, location or how the car came into stock.

I see many of you have started new offshoot used car centres, some with snazzy new logos or names.

I am also aware that many of you are changing titles of sales executives to more modern catchy names such as ‘digital champion’ or ‘experience manager’.

I have a question for you: why?

It will not escape your notice from the excellent Car Dealer reporting that Cazoo is in trouble.

Its share price has dropped significantly and the recently leaked dossier which warned investors that they may never make money is hardly something to want to emulate.

The problem is you – or, indeed, us as a wider industry.

We balls things up so significantly all the time that we leave ourselves open to criticism.

For example, I recently had a year-old Mercedes serviced at a franchised dealer.

It was the first service the car had ever had, and as it had only covered 6,800 miles I expected it to get a clean bill of health on the VHC.

I was therefore amazed when I saw the report, as the one of the tyres had been reported. I asked the service adviser what the measurement was: 4/4/5 she said.

I have another example for you.

A friend of a friend wanted to sell his Range Rover SVR. The owner called the supplying dealer to see if they wanted to buy it. They didn’t call him back.

Given he is a good customer of the branch, he called again. Again, no reply.


Cazoo is struggling – so why try to emulate its business model, asks James Litton?

The owner made a further two attempts and in the end was advised to list the car with Motorway, which – to its credit – sold the car for £2,000 more than he was prepared to accept from his dealer.

But guess who bought it? That’s right, folks – a group buyer for the same company he was trying to sell it to in the first place.

The future of car retailing is uncertain and for many specialists or small business owners such as me, it is a terrifying time.

However, I look with envy at the comfort afforded to franchised businesses.

There is absolutely nothing to fear from agency sales models.

Why would you not want a linear pricing model to protect your local market share?

With cars becoming more technical, why would you not want the comfort of up-to-the-minute diagnostic equipment and specialist tools?

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The secret to used car retailing is not buying five-year-old non-franchised cars from the auction. This is what everyone does, so why not stock a huge selection of used cars that represent the brand above the door?

I know I am a nobody – who am I to criticise you and what you do? However, I don’t need to be Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp to know that one thing you don’t do is score own goals…


This column appears in issue 171 of Car Dealer along with news, reviews, features and much more. Click here to read and download the magazine for free! 

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