Profits and staff are in short supply
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• New truck sales may have boomed last year, but the same cannot be said about franchised dealer profitability.
"Dealers as a whole aren't satisfied with the returns they are making," says Keith Sayfritz, managing director of Daf dealer Greenhous and chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Federation's national truck dealer council.
"Most of them are making a return on sales of well under 2%, and in my opinion that's not sufficient to fund the level of investment required to meet the standards laid down by the manufacturers. It's a struggle for a lot of people," he adds.
"Better margins are hard to come by, but hopefully we'll get extra profits as a result of the efficiencies we'll be able to achieve in our new premises," says Steve Bradley, managing director of ERF dealership Perris and Kearon. The firm has just moved to a site in Widnes close to the Runcorn Expressway. But although margins may not be massive, at least the figures are heading in the right direction for some dealers, says Ron Holmes, managing director of Mercedes-Benz dealership S&B Commercials. "Of course some may have high overheads, or be facing particularly severe competition, but for others profitability has been improving for the past two or three years," he contends.
Holmes is optimistic about the prospects for this year: "I can't imagine the truck market will be as big as it was in anon—I think it will drop by around 7 to nci%—but that is still a significant number of vehicles.
"One problem dealers in the SouthEast—S&B is based in Hertfordshire— are suffering from is an inability to recruit the staff they need," he concludes. "I'm not just talking about technicians, I'm talking about jobs of all types. We're looking all the time."