• Suzuki chief says success in a push market means being proactive
  • Agency model is a ‘design-and-build’ project
  • Accountability to stakeholders should be the root of business decisions

Dealers must become reacquainted with the skills needed to operate in a ‘push’ market to succeed in 2024 and beyond. That’s according to Dale Wyatt, Director of Suzuki, UK and Ireland.

Dale, one of many heavyweight contributors to Cox Automotive’s Insight Report, said some in the sector had veered into complacency and needed to be more proactive to succeed in an altered commercial landscape.
He said: “Many people haven’t the muscle memory for performing in a push market. That’s one where you’ve got to create activity rather than manage it. We’re in a period of what I call post-covid cosiness. The key thing to think about now is how to survive in a market that punishes inactivity and rewards consistent proactivity.”
Cox Automotive and other industry experts recently reported that UK automotive is transitioning back to a push model, following supply chain disruptions of recent years and the high demand witnessed in the past year alongside diminishing lead times. Manufacturers are investing more in marketing to encourage sales, a ‘push’ hallmark.
Dale added that both new and ongoing geopolitical events will impact the sector this year, and he thinks shifting market dynamics will play a part too.
“The used residual values issues, as well as the shortage of three to seven-year-old cars, will have an impact,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens to early-generation EVs too. They could prove to be quite undesirable in the used market.”
Cox Automotive’s Insight Director Philip Nothard echoed the Suzuki chief’s thoughts on the changing market.
“The changes we’re seeing underline the fact that it’s time for dealers to get their running shoes on and get back to selling, as opposed to order-taking,” he said. “Supply has increased significantly, and the market is ripe for agile business owners to do what they do best.”
Asked what dealers should do to remain competitive this year, Dale said mindset was hugely important and that dealers’ to-do lists should become ‘do-it-now’ lists.
“I also think too many are following the crowd,” he said. “There are close to 40 brands in the UK now, 100s of products and thousands of places to buy them. There are plenty of businesses delivering bad experiences to customers. To stay competitive, it’s about getting your core processes right. Let your people shine and do the basics brilliantly. Don’t get in the way of your management team, become an enabler rather than a blocker.”
Discussing the ongoing agency model saga, industry veteran Dale described it as a design-and-build project rather than a purpose-built one.
“If you watch Grand Designs, the houses are invariably fantastic by an episode’s end. But they normally go over budget and take much longer than planned. That’s how agency will go; some will get it right, and a lot will get it wrong in the process.”
Drawing on his 37 years in the sector, Dale said accountability and knowing what matters are two of the most valuable things for dealers to understand.
He said: “Every business problem has two legs, i.e., they’re always people related. It’s the people you’re accountable to, for and those you serve. So that means bosses, employees and customers. Decisions must be weighed carefully because they will always affect at least one of those stakeholders.
“Another great piece of advice once given to me: Not everything that can be counted counts – and everything that counts can’t be counted. I think that speaks for itself.”
Philip Nothard said: “Recent changes in automotive mean that dealers must adapt, whether that means getting the most out of the technology they already use or focusing on new tech such as AI. It’s impossible to overstate how significantly circumstances have changed and how altering perspective could bolster your strategy.”
Listen to the latest Insight Report podcast with Philip and Dale here. Cox Automotive’s forecasts for 2024 and beyond are also published as a part of its Insight Report, which includes a deep dive into key issues facing dealers, OEMs and fleets.