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New car marketNewsDealerprofileNew carnewsUsed carRecruitmentanalysisNewsdigestShowroomto predict. The only thing that's difficult to predict is do we make any margin, and do the car manufacturers make any margin on the cars they sell, and that's the thing that moves around. But it's not going to be any less competitive than last year."Used cars and aftersalesLike many franchised dealers, Finn sees the areas of used car sales and aftersales as key areas for growth. Pendragon has invested significantly in technology and processes which it believes will bring benefits to a busi-ness of such considerable scale. One example is its support centre at its Loxley House headquarters near Nottingham, which has 300 opera-tives. Every call to any of Pendragon's dealerships is initially received here before being directed to the rele-vant person at the requested dealership. That's a total of five million calls per year.The team also makes two million outbound calls a year to customers about deferred work or due services and MoTs, and takes 750,000 in-bound service booking calls from customers, with the operative systematically alerted to any outstanding work which had been previ-ously identified. It has the technology to input appoint-ments in real-time into every dealership's DMS, and the process ensures that customers' data is gathered in full and efficiently.Another example of the technology Finn holds dear is its dealership security system. Cameras and sensors at every dealership enable a small team in a secure room at Loxley House to monitor every site in the group. If a sensor is triggered out of hours, it pops up a live camera feed to the secure room together with contact data of the local police. The security operatives can speak live to the visitor, to advise them to return when the business is open, and can alert the police if the visitor appears suspicious.It saves having a security patrol for every single deal-ership. It's a clear illustration of how Pendragon sees technology as a way to improve results and reduce costs in the future. "We're interested in smarter ways of doing things using technology. So we've got a big thrust on systems "Whichever piece of the business you look at, it's got to be getting better in order to stand still"Trevor FinnContinues

Dealer profile Pendragonand processes, if it can make us more efficient and effective. Process which we'd link to cost, because generally speaking it improves your cost and your productivity."Now that every dealer has become switched on to service plans and vehicle health checks, Pendragon is using technology to "move the needle".It's a needle that must move, because the number of franchised dealerships in the UK is in decline, those that remain make increasing investments in facilities and standards and optimise all aspects of their business because, meanwhile, the new car retail market has shrunk and the leasing industry dominates.Smaller networks in futureFinn believes a contraction in the franchised networks is needed, as the footprint of UK dealerships hasn't declined in pace with the opportunities. Throughput per location is a big issue for profitability. He described Renault UK's decision to cut a third of its dealerships as "based on logic and therefore likely to be successful" and said a change to the sector's busi­ness model is needed, as dealer margins become more of an issue. But the change will be driven by the manu­facturers."Things need to change, but that's not my decision is it? I'm not in control of the new car market, or the way that new cars are sold so from our perspective we can only adjust and adapt to fit in with the market. We can't actually make the market do what we want it to do. You know there's no question about it, the structural change in the market is the thing that affects the dealers, and that can only be described as struc­tural change.""The thing that obviously I have to address is what's happening to our business, but the new car market is Sponsored byContinuesrun by the car manufacturers and we'll do what we can do in that market. We'd expect, in any market where we represent the manufacturer, to do a good job for the manufacturer, but no matter what we do we can't change the UK market."He questioned whether consolidation over the past 10 years had benefited dealers commercially. For Pendragon the biggest benefit has been achieving the scale to apply technology to become more efficient, he said. However, he warned dealers' investments cannot be sustained forever if they cannot make a return without the "smokescreen" of property appreciation.After a 20-year period when Pendragon doubled in size every three years through acquisition, the economic climate has led it to focus on the business it has. Not everything worked out. Finn said with hindsight there would've been plenty of things to change, but there's little point to hindsight. But the wins make up for the losses. Pendragon has topped the sector for more than a decade.Finn claimed Pendragon has a better business "We can double, maybe triple our profitability with what we've got"Trevor FinnDealers' investments cannot be sustained forever if they cannot make a profit without the 'smokescreen' of property appreciation