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Daily News Round UpBack

Twice as many staff and products as Judge Service reaches new milestone

JudgeService high def

JUDGE SERVICE, a leading UK provider of car dealer reviews, has expanded its product range and doubled its staff – and it has also published its milestone 300,000th review.

The company, which was launched in 2011, has seen steady growth and recently doubled its team of contact centre staff to deliver its evolving range of products.

As well as its headline used car customer satisfaction programme ReAct, JudgeService offers a wide range of additional customer satisfaction tools including ProAct, its lost sales survey, Advanced Warning About Car Selection, (AWACS) and Motability to ensure customer’s needs are met throughout the car-buying journey.

All surveys include the new Dashboard facility, which allows dealers to compare their results to competitors, groups and sales people to use in internal development, training and management. JudgeService’s products have now delivered 300,000 reviews for more than 800 dealerships nationwide.

Dale Woodley, sales director at JudgeService, said: ‘Reaching 300,000 reviews highlights the growing importance of online customer feedback.

‘Being able to deliver up-to-the-minute data about reviews is an invaluable resource for our clients as our research shows that 83 per cent of consumers use social media when researching their next car and expect to find customer reviews to help them make a decision on which dealer to use.’

JudgeService was recently appointed by Jaguar Land Rover as one of four preferred suppliers to provide lost sales follow-ups to 220 dealerships across the country.


Gas Vehicle Hub to support growth of refuelling stations

Cenex has launched the Gas Vehicle Hub to support the growth of gas vehicles in the UK, providing details of the location of refuelling infrastructure.

The new Refuelling Stations Request Form has been designed to assist current and potential gas fleet operators to encourage the construction of convenient refuelling stations by collating preferred sites and sharing them with suppliers.

Through an easy-to-access online process, fleet operators who are considering switching to gas vehicles, or operators who are already using it but would benefit from more refuelling stations, can register their interest with the aim of building confidence in a demand for stations in specific areas.

Operators need simply input their preferred station location, type of fuel, and type and size of fleet, and Cenex will collate and share the details with station operators around the country.

“By providing a central hub for current or potential gas fleet operators to register their interest for refuelling stations, The Gas Vehicle Hub Refuelling Stations Request Form will help station suppliers gauge demand, and build stations where they’re needed,” said Steve Carrol, technical specialist at Cenex.

“By making the form accessible to anyone online, the collated voices of the many will boost the chances of success,” he added.

The recent Low Carbon Truck Trial, co-funded by Innovate UK and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) identified the lack of refuelling infrastructure as a major barrier to gas vehicle uptake, Carrol explained.

“This process has been developed to directly help fleet operators use and refuel gas vehicles as easily as possible,” Carrol concluded.

To access the Refuelling Stations Request Form visit


Kia gears up to fill open points in network

Kia is pushing ahead with plans to fill nine open points in its dealer network.

The carmaker started the year with 181 and this has grown to 185.

“We should end the year on 186 or 187,” said Paul Philpott, Kia UK’s chief executive and president.

Open points in the network include Wandsworth, Stratford and Chester.

New moves in the network include the opening a dealership in Enfield to be run by Brayleys.

Kia is also moving ahead with its flagship dealership (pictured) located on the Great West Road on the elevated section of the M4.

The 41,000 sq ft dealership has been designed to showcase Kia’s line-up to the 75,000 people that are estimated to pass by every day.

The property is over four stories with Norton Way running the dealership while Kia retains the top floor to advertise the brand.

Philpott said Kia will not follow sister brand Hyundai and its launch of the Rockar digital dealership at the Bluewater shopping centre

“We have no plans for a Rockar 2,” he said.

The Kia franchise, which was rated number two in the most recent NFDA Dealer Attitude survey behind Mercedes-Benz, had a return on sales of 1.6% last year.

Its first half sales are up 4% in 2015 and the brand aims to hit 80,000 units this year, a record.


Pentagon to represent Vauxhall in Lincoln

Derbyshire-based Pentagon Group is to open a new Vauxhall dealership in Lincoln.

The manufacturer was previously represented in Lincoln by Charles Warner.

Trevor Reeve, Pentagon chairman (pictured), said: “Lincoln is a prime location for our business and we are delighted to be opening what we believe will quickly become a very successful Vauxhall dealership.”

Pentagon already operate eight Vauxhall dealerships in Burton on Trent, Derby, Sheffield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Oldham, Manchester and Rochdale.

Reeve added: “The Lincoln Vauxhall business will fit in well with our strategy to grow our company where we can see potential and I think there’s huge potential here in Lincoln.”

Pentagon said it hoped to be able to announce another deal to acquire more car dealerships in the Lincoln area in July.

Pentagon turned in a strong performance in 2014 with pre-tax profits up 187% to £4m on turnover up 20% to £433m.

Like-for- like new car registrations rose 18% and used car volumes increased by 14%.

In April last year it launched a new training academy for its 950 employees.

The academy is based at Pentagon’s site in Barnsley with programmes delivered on site and at the group’s dealerships.


Benfield operating profits rise 21% to £9.8m

Benfield Motor Group saw pre-tax profits fall 4.7% to £7.007m in the year to 31 December 2014 on turnover up 12% to £699.7m.

The group’s operating profits before amortisation and a pension gain increased by 21% to £9.8m.

During the year the group saw its new car retail sales grow 7.5% compared to UK market growth of 9.8%.

Its fleet sales grew by 36% compared to overall market growth of 9% for the year.

Benfield turned in a strong performance used car sales, up 6.4% on the previous year.

The company has been investing in dealerships. It said its new Audi dealership in Newcastle gave it additional capacity for growing aftersales business and gave it scope for increased used cars display.

It is also building a new Audi dealership in Sunderland, which is due for completion in September 2015 and it is investing in its VW and Nissan businesses in Newcastle. During the year it sold a property in Wetherby for £2.6m.

During the year Benfield completed its switch over to a new DMS system which will increase its efficiency in 2015.

The group is donating 5% of its pre tax profits to the Benfield Motors Charitable Trust.

Benfield’s return on sales, calculated as operating profits a percentage of turnover was 1.5% in 2014 compared to 1.4% a year earlier. Return on capital employed was 12.2% compared to 10.5% a year earlier.

In late 2013 it entered into a £27m facility agreement with its banks comprising a £3m overdraft, £500,000 ancillary facilities and a five-year £23.5m revolving credit facility to fund its long term capital needs.


Tesco calls time on Clubcard Fuel Save scheme

Tesco has confirmed its Clubcard Fuel Save promotion, launched amid great fanfare 16 months ago, is coming to an end.

A red flash on Its Clubcard Fuel Save website show the promotion will finish on August 31, with customers able to redeem points until the end of September.

A Tesco spokesman said: “Clubcard Fuel Save has been really popular with customers, helping them to save money when fuel prices were historically high. Customers are now telling us they want simpler, more direct benefits from shopping with Tesco, so that’s what we will deliver.”

Clubcard Fuel Save gave customers the chance to earn a fuel discount of 2ppl for every £50 spent in-store or online – cumulatively or otherwise. A spend of £100 would earn a 4ppl discount, £150 would give 6ppl discount, and so on, giving rise to the tag line ‘the more you shop, the more you save’. The fuel savings discounts could be redeemed at any Tesco forecourt, excluding Esso Express sites.


Kia will have sports car ‘in the next four years’

KIA will have a sports car on sale in the UK inside the next four years.

That was the startling revelation by Paul Philpott, Kia Motors UK’s president and CEO, when he met Car Dealer Magazine today.

We were among a small gathering of journalists invited to quiz Philpott on Kia’s performance in the first six months of this year.

The Korean manufacturer is on target for a record year, with more than 42,000 vehicles sold so far in 2015, and it aims to break through the 80,000 barrier for the first time by the end of December.

Philpott personally would love Kia to introduce something sporty to the market – and his wish is set to become a reality.

‘Our dream is to have a dedicated sports car – what that looks like and when it comes is still not strictly defined,’ he said.

‘But the brand is now ready for a sports car. We have produced concept sports cars in the past and they have been extremely well received, but we have always said that as the brand has grown, we need to get our core range first before we start going into niche territories.

‘We needed to get the A, B and C and C-SUV segments right first and now a sports car would be a great addition to our range.’

Kia wants to sell 100,000 vehicles in the UK by the end of the decade, and Philpott hopes the sports car will be in showrooms in time to help achieve that milestone.

‘We are talking about producing a dedicated sports car, not a sporty version of a present model,’ he said. ‘A roadster? Well, that’s one option. But it will still be a Kia. It will be a car that appeals to the major markets of the world – a sports car needs to be a global car – and that means the US, Europe and potentially China, Russia and South America. There is no market for producing a sports car for Europe only.

‘An MX-5 might be ideal for Europe, but what we need is an exciting, dedicated sporting car in the range, but it has to work for a wider market than just Europe.’



The new Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has proved it can go the distance, achieving 67 miles per gallon in official US combined city/highway driving calculations, and an estimated driving range of 312 miles on a single tank – a distance further than for any other zero-emissions car on the market.

Jim Lentz, Toyota North America CEO, announced the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fuel economy rating for Mirai at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado this week. It confirms that Mirai is the only zero emissions electric vehicle on the market capable of exceeding 300 miles on one fill.

Jim said: ‘Toyota realised in the early 90s that electrification was key to the future of the automobile. Just as Prius introduced hybrid-electric vehicles to millions of customers nearly 20 years ago, Mirai is now poised to usher in a new era of efficient, hydrogen transportation.’

Mirai is the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, a four-door saloon with performance that competes with traditional internal combustion engines. Instead of using petrol, Mirai runs on electricity created on demand by hydrogen fuel and oxygen. The only emission produced by this process is water vapour.

Toyota will introduce Mirai in limited numbers in the UK and other selected European markets later this year, following its launch in Japan.



Luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover has signed up Austrian contractor Magna Steyr to build future vehicles, as its own UK plants are currently working close to full capacity.

The vast majority of cars they made last year, rolled off production lines at the JLR plants in Castle Bromwich, Solihull and Halewood.

The company also has a smaller plants in India, and has opened a new operation in Shanghai with local manufacturer Chery Automobile. A further 24,000-vehicle plant is being built in Brazil and JLR also has smaller local assembly facilities in Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.

However, the deal with Magna is the first time JLR has contracted out production and the company said it was necessary to meet its plans to expand production.

Ralf Speth, JLR chief executive, said the deal marked ‘another step in building our global footprint’ and would allow the company to expand its range of models.

JLR refused to specify when production will start at Magna’s plant in Graz or which vehicles will be built there, saying only that ‘entire future cars’ would be made at the site.

The car maker denied that using a contractor would affect the reputation that JLR has as a premium British brand, saying the business will still be ‘absolutely a British manufacturer with our foundations in the UK’.

Ralf added: ‘The UK remains at the centre of our design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Partnerships such as this will complement our UK operations.’

Over the past five years the company has invested £10bn in research and new plants and plans to spend a further £3.6bn in 2015/16.



Motorists are being warned about an aggressive new strain of the ‘crash for cash’ scam that is increasingly being used by opportunistic criminals.

Dubbed ‘crash for ready cash’ by investigators from anti-fraud specialists APU, the new tactic involves the criminals deliberately causing an accident and then intimidating the innocent victim into handing over money in return for not getting insurers involved.

Historically, ‘crash for cash’ gangs stage collisions and then make fraudulent personal injury claims through insurers, pocketing the pay-outs if they get past the insurers’ fraud detection systems.

But this emerging version of the crime is increasingly being used by gangs looking for a ‘quick fix’ route to the money by sidestepping the insurer and the risk of detection by the police.

Criminals tend to target more vulnerable motorists, like young females who are driving alone, or elderly people, in the hope that they can force them to hand over cash more readily.



Chargemaster, the UK’s largest supplier and operator of electric vehicle charging points, has acquired GB Electrical, a specialist national contractor that has expanded into the installation of charging points across the country over the past two years.

GB Electrical currently employs approximately 70 specialist staff nationwide and this is set to grow following the acquisition and in line with the expansion of the electric vehicle charging point market.

To date, Chargemaster has used a number of external subcontractors for its installation work and this move will enable it to increase its capacity and quality of installation service through GB Electrical to accommodate the growing market.

Chargemaster is the only charge point supplier that controls the value chain from charge point design to the installation and commissioning of the units. It designs, develops, manufactures (through its manufacturing plant in Luton Airport) and now carries out installation in-house of its charging points.


The mystery of the ‘Vauxhall cannibals’

A bizarre crime wave is sweeping one part of England – thieves are stripping down Vauxhall cars as their owners sleep. Hundreds of owners have fallen victim – but why?

One morning Lisa Frankland woke to discover the front of her Vauxhall Corsa had vanished.

A neighbour knocked on her door and told her she should take a look. The bonnet, the bumper, the front lights and radiator had all been stolen.

“I just wasn’t expecting it,” says Frankland, 43, a midwife. “I didn’t expect to go out and find the front of the car missing.”

The day she discovered the theft, she had to cancel her shift at work 40 minutes drive away and the damage cost £5,000 to repair.


The thefts cost Lisa Frankland £5,000 in repairs

But though this crime was odd, it was far from rare. In and around Bedfordshire, where Frankland lives, owners of Vauxhalls have been waking to find their cars taken to pieces overnight.

Bedfordshire Police say there have been more 500 offences in which components have been stolen from Vauxhall Astras and Corsas since August 2013.

Find out more

The investigation into “Vauxhall cannibals” was carried out for broadcast on Crimewatch Roadshow, presented by Rav Wilding, which is broadcast at 09:15 BST every weekday morning on BBC One until 3 July

Watch the programme on BBC iPlayer

The thieves take body parts in varying quantities. Sometimes only the bumper and the number plate might be stolen. In other cases, the cars are stripped right down to the chassis.

In 150 cases the damage was too extensive for repairs to be economically viable.

At first, the thefts were sporadic, but recently they have picked up in pace. Since April 2015, five to 10 of these crimes have been recorded every week.


Motorbike insurance top-dog Bennetts to be officially taken over by Saga

Iconic motorbike insurer Bennetts to be taken over by Saga after multi-million-pound bid

Insurance company, Saga, who are best known for specialising in providing car insurance for the over-fifties, are set to absorb iconic and long-standing motorbike insurers Bennetts, in a massive and drawn-out bid for the company.

It has been a long process for Saga, having begun their bid to buy Bennetts back in January, taking over five months for the take-over to become official.

The insurance company will certainly benefit from their latest acquisition, with Bennett’s described as the ‘most customer-endorsed’ motorbike insurer out there, with over 200,000 customers.

Furthermore, with over forty-three per cent of Bennetts’s customers being over fifty years old, and 77 per cent being over forty, it is clear that the bike insurer will be very compatible with Saga’s current target audience.

In exchange, Bennetts will gain access to Saga’s enormous database of 10.8 million people.

Lance Batchelor, chief executive of Saga, said: “We are delighted to have completed the acquisition of Bennetts, enhancing our excellent range of insurance products and services.

“The over 50s’ growing share of the motorbike market in the UK makes Bennetts an excellent fit with Saga’s current insurance offering. Bennetts’ model of providing insurance solutions via a panel is also in line with our cash generative, capital efficient strategy, and will aid our ambition to drive growth through our high quality insurance division.”

Saga are certainly excited to be able to offer their products and services to a wider, untapped audience, in what seems to be a mutually beneficial agreement for the future success of both parties.


‘Worrying’ female premium charged by UK garages

Every trip to the garage costs women £45 more on average than men, a new study has revealed.

The research, conducted by online marketplace ClickMechanic, examined 182 independent garages across 10 cities, sending male and female mystery shoppers to query the cost of a replacement clutch for a 2011 Ford Focus.

In eight out of 10 cities, male shoppers found that on average they were quoted £571, whereas the women were stung by the so-called ‘female premium’, which left them with an average price of £616 – some eight per cent dearer.

Garages in Birmingham charged the highest ‘female premium’, with women customers being charged almost £140 more than men, a difference of 31 per cent.

Only mechanics in Sheffield and Edinburgh quoted cheaper clutch repairs to the female mystery shoppers. The Scottish city showed the higher difference – 19 per cent – offering women an average price of £629, compared to £746 for the men. Coincidentally, these prices were on the higher end of the price scale for a repair, which industry standard guidelines recommend should cost the customer £514.

Shockingly, just six per cent of surveyed garages gave a consistent quote to both male and female shoppers – an unwelcome surprise to female car owners, said Andrew Jervis, co-founder and CEO of ClickMechanic.


Posted by Lois Hardy on 02/07/2015