Cambria Automobiles boss Mark Lavery is already planning for a third national lockdown as he negotiates his group through the pandemic.
Speaking exclusively to Car Dealer Live in a video interview you can watch above, Lavery says the group – which operates the Doves, Grange and Motorparks names – said the second lockdown had been ‘nothing like as damaging’ as the first.
But despite this he was already preparing for a third lockdown which he believes could come as a result of Christmas festivities.
The government has announced three households will be allowed to get together for five days over the Christmas period.
Lavery said: ‘We’re typically very conservative at Cambria and we’re working on the basis there could be a lockdown three.
‘We hope that there isn’t and we hope that we can get to the vaccine, but we have to be prepared for the worst.
‘Don’t take it out of context, but hope wasn’t a good strategy last time I looked so we have to be prepared and ready.’
If there is a third lockdown, Lavery said he believes the ‘whole industry has learned an enormous amount’ about how to cope with it and that Cambria is now better prepared to ‘hopefully prosper’.
However, he did say he felt it was ‘unfair’ dealers had to close during the second lockdown while garden centres remained open and praised trade bodies and car manufacturers for their attempts to lobby the government to change their minds.
Lavery was speaking to Car Dealer after unveiling the company’s annual results for the year ending August 31 to the Stock Market this morning.
These were the first look at an annual set of accounts that covered the period of the first lockdown.
The headlines saw pre-tax profit drop by 18.4 per cent to £10.2m on revenue down 20.3 per cent to £524m.
Sales of new cars decreased by 26.3 per cent, used car sales dropped by 20.9 per cent and aftersales revenue fell by 14.7 per cent.
Cambira represents a large portfolio of brands including luxury marques Rolls Royce, McLaren, Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover.
Lavery said: ‘I think they’re a good set of results. I think the industry hit a sweet spot in June, July and August which went a long way in offsetting the damage of the first lockdown.’
The Cambria Automobiles boss said click and collect had been working well for the firm in the second lockdown and that some luxury car customers preferred it.
He added: ‘As long as you’re immersing them in the brand experience and explaining the vehicle, explaining its technical capabilities, then it’s really working and our people have adapted really quickly and so have the guests.
‘It’s just a bizarre world where not only are we having to be flexible, but guests are incredibly flexible as well.’
Lavery revealed the brand had also embraced Cinch and the potential increase in sales it can offer his business.
He admits he might have differing opinions on the platform to other dealers, but said the BCA platform’s ability to advertise on prime time television has a huge appeal.
He said: ‘Now, we very much consider it as a standalone division with its own car stock and its own prices.
‘Cambria cannot afford to go on ITV or Coronation Street and advertise, Cinch can. I think going forward a combination of Cinch with our own channel approach will continue to protect us in these uncertain times.’
Lavery says Cinch works ‘really well’ for him and is working out how to get its own stock onto the platform while selling it in dealerships too.
This presented problems, he believes, as it could result in a car being sold on the Cinch platform and by a dealer at the same time – which Lavery says ‘isn’t good’.
In the wide ranging interview, the CEO also touches on job losses at the group but wouldn’t go into the number of people affected saying Cambria has been forced to become ‘leaner’ and that the group has lost some ‘good calibre’ people as a result.
He predicts a deal on Brexit will be done and says Cafe (corporate average fuel economy) emissions regulations are a worry for some of his brands and will see some car prices going up.
Recently, transport secretary Grant Shapps and his Northern Ireland secretary colleague Brandon Lewis visited Cambria’s Grange dealership in Hatfield in October.
Lavery said he had an ‘absolute tear off’ with them both about the 2030 petrol and diesel car ban and said the decision was ‘unfortunate’ and ‘ambitious’.
On the 2030 ban, he added: ‘I think the last thing we should do as dealers is roll over and say the decision’s made. I think one thing this government has demonstrated is that if they make a decision and they get enough pushback, they’ll change.’
You can watch the full video interview at the top of this page