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Lookers CEO tells AM the car dealer group is set to expand

Lookers will look for safe expansion routes, including partnering exciting Chinese new entrants, as the car dealer aims for growth in the years ahead.

Chief executive Mark Raban joined us in the studio for the AM News Show podcast recording a few weeks ago, prior to the announcement of a takeover bid for Lookers from the owner of Canada’s Alpha Auto Group, when he outlined some of the elements of its strategy to increase in scale.

The AM100 dealer group went through a rough patch from 2019 to 2021, and subsequently restructured and improved its corporate culture. Raban said his Lookers colleagues have strengthened the core business and created a platform from which it can safely expand.am news show mark raban of lookers and fraser brown of motorvise w268 - Aligra.co.uk

“I think the timing is right, now, to do that,” he added. “We’ll do deals when they’re the right deals – the right brands, right locations and right price.”

He was joined for the AM News Show podcast, at Armchair Marketing’s recording studio, by MotorVise’s managing director Fraser Brown, who talked about the likelihood of emerging car brands, many Chinese-owned, to replicate the successful transformation of Kia and do battle with established brands. Some of the ‘old establishment’ aren’t organised and reactive enough and their defences are weak.

“You can look at all the manufacturers, and there are some right now that are in absolute chaos and really do need to hang their heads in shame. I’m not naming names, but being a dealer of them must be like managing a car crash,” Brown said.

Lookers chief executive Mark Raban talks on the AM News Show PodcastRaban told AM: “There’s something like 25 Chinese brands looking at entering the UK with electric vehicles, and I’ve seen some absolutely phenomenal and very exciting product that’s on the way.

“We think it’s important to have a balanced portfolio: we have a new car market coverage of over 90%, but we definitely want to take a position with some new brands. We can’t talk to all 25 but we are talking to a number of them.”

Both talked about the economic challenges, adapting to the agency model, and expectations that some small or medium franchisees who don’t have succession plans will be looking to sell up rather than adapt to a broadly omnichannel marketplace.

Raban said: “The bit that we are really focused on is what these next three or four years look like. There are some big, big picture changes coming.”

Watch the AM News Show podcast with Lookers chief executive Mark Raban and MotorVise managing director Fraser Brown below on YouTube.

Tim Rose

As editor, Tim is responsible for the media content, planning and production of AM’s multiple channels (AM print and digital magazines, website, social media and contributing to our events planning). He interviews and writes about as many franchised dealer groups and UK divisions of motor manufacturers as possible, to explore the issues facing UK motor retail and understand what solutions dealers and suppliers are using to overcome these. 

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