Paul Brigden jpegWITH the dealer network expanding, the role of Paul Brigden, Deputy Director of Finance, has grown to include Network Development. Matters caught up with Paul, who joined the company 13 years ago as a Business Management Manager, to discuss a busy few months for his department.

As Mitsubishi Motors in the UK continues to see growth this must be a busy time for you.

We are going live with a dealer a month at the moment. It’s a very busy time in Network Development, it’s fantastic for us; yes it’s incredibly busy but it’s great to be busy in a positive way.

Our sales growth over the past 18 months has meant we have become an attractive proposition to partner with, it also means that certain open points we have become a viable proposition to fill as the sustainable sales volumes continue to grow. Also, although we pride ourselves on being in a long term partnership with our dealers we have inevitably, as all franchises do, parted company with a few where our growth demands and strategic aims were not aligned.

So, it became quite apparent that there was a heavy, ongoing, workload facing the franchising side of our business and that, coupled with the amount of focus we had on sales growth, meant that we needed to separate it away from the sales function so that both disciplines could have a clear focus.

Also, with Outlander PHEV coming our sales aspirations have been hugely increased, but that’s not to say we don’t need to carry on focusing and selling the existing range. PHEV is undoubtedly going to be a phenomenal success and we must make the most of that, but that can’t be at the sake of the other products, for us and our network it must be incremental. We have to carry on selling the other products and maintain focus on all the range, not just PHEV.

How many dealers would you ultimately like in the network?

We are aiming for 130 dealers. We have 111 today and the plan is to be around 120 by the end of the year and then on to 130 by the end of next year.

What are the current open points?

We have a list of open points that we rank by opportunity and we work our way through that. Our top five open points in the south are: Maidenhead, Romford, Southampton, Erith, Solihull and Stevenage. The top five in the north are: Manchester, Chesterfield, Liverpool, Burnley, Wigan and York.

How has the success of the past 18 months affected dealer recruitment?

Clearly, when you are on a growth curve and you’ve got exciting new product coming it’s much easier to recruit quality dealers than when the market is in decline, so the level and quality of interest has improved massively.

What’s the feeling like among the dealer network at the moment?

It’s very positive; firstly and most importantly it’s profitable, one of the things we pride ourselves on as a company, and that distinguishes from other franchises, is that our network profitability is the most important thing to us. Also, at the dealer conference there were two spontaneous rounds of applause, something you never normally experience; one for the PHEV pricing, which we worked really hard to deliver, and the other when we announced that we would be going back on TV. TV advertising is a huge boon for the network.

You were previously the GM of the Ralliart department and you’ve been heavily involved with the limited edition Lancer Evolution FQ-440 to celebrate Mitsubishi Motors in the UK’s 40th anniversary. What are your thoughts on the car?

They are all sold; in fact they sold out within hours of going on sale! I think it’s a fantastic car. The concept came from a meeting we had to come up with ideas of how to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We discussed developing special models and there’s only really one car that lends itself to a very short production run, 40 seemed a logical number, and that’s the Evo. We negotiated with the factory on supply and pricing and then went to work. I’m currently driving the development car and it’s nearly there, a few final tweaks and I think it will be the best one we’ve ever done!

What have you made of the early results of Outlander PHEV?

PHEV is going fantastically well. We have taken more orders on the car without customers having even driven it than we have ever taken on any other car in our company’s history, including Evo, which is great news. It will undoubtedly be a great success for us, but I go back to an earlier comment I made; our focus as a team of people here is to capitalise on PHEV while at the same time making sure we focus on the rest of the range as well.

What is your message to existing dealers as you continue to attract new dealers?

Of course with our volume aspirations we need to both expand our network coverage and ask our existing dealers to increase their resources to cope with and help deliver the sales growth we envisage whilst maintaining a great customer experience. From a dealers’ perspective they need to see the network growth as a positive. Our other challenge is to fill key open points throughout the country and what existing dealers need to understand is that having an open point next to you is actually far worse than having a dealer next to you. It is a common misconception that filling an open point adjacent to your territory means the new dealer will steal sales, they won’t. What actually happens is that there will be more Mitsubishi noise in the area as a whole and as a result they will sell more cars. If a dealer looks after their customers, no matter where they are, they will always come back to them.