13 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Let’s Get Together

Consolidation, it’s the name of the game. No, wait – that’s Monopoly I was thinking of, but someone really should do a board game where the object of the exercise is to gradually take over the entire motor industry, until you have every brand, and have vertically integrated yourself to a point where you own, well, everything.

Remember the old days, when car companies were standalone entities?

No, of course you don’t, and neither do I, as it has never been that way. I remember the bad old days of British Leyland. Heck, I can even recall the heady days of BMC, but that isn’t the point. Whether you are getting all driving gloves and Werthers Originals (don’t mind if I do) about the past, or whether you looked at today’s behemoths, like Volkswagen Audi Group, there has always been a pull towards the economies of scale.

It makes sense. If you have one brand, or one platform, you are not going to be very profitable. Look at Porsche. Now stop looking at Porsche – No, really stop looking, and stop drooling while you are at it. My point is that when they basically made the 911, plus other supposedly four-seater sports cars, they didn’t really make money, no matter how much they charge, and believe me, it’s a lot. Then they got into the 4WD SUV market with VW and started making enough money to keep rolling down the road.

Even Mini, under the BMW umbrella had to be expanded to make larger vehicles. They bought back the Clubman name, although they swerved the whole 1275 rectangle-face thing in favour of, yes, big SUVs. They didn’t call any of them a Maxi though did they, which is a shame. We had an orange one – which was one of the best cars I ever owned. I got caught on that roundabout by Buckingham Palace in the Maxi once for what seemed like hours, but that’s another story. Going back to the bigger companies, one of the advantages for garages with this is the fact that the shared technology means you know more than you think you do, about all sorts of brands. Of course, it can be confusing when they first get together. When Vauxhall was under GM, I knew where I was. Now it is with Peugeot etc in Stellantis, it takes me a second to remember where I am.

Of course, this sort of thing is not just in our sector. Everywhere is starting to look the same. If you go up the high street, you could be anywhere in the U.K, with all the shops. That is of course, when there are shops. I had the misfortune of having to accompany Mrs P to do some clothes shopping not too long ago. After a few visits I was starting to lose the will to stand up, so I suggested I might go and have some sort of hot beverage while she did the last few stops. “Where shall I meet you?” she asked. “Pre-Kay Macks?” I suggested, which did not get much of a response. Apparently I had jumbled up at least three chains in one there. You see? Not only is everywhere merging, but they also all have the same names. At least that isn’t happening with the car sector.