A ‘false economy’ which has seen the UK’s car retail sector deliver on pent-up demand from the COVID-19 lockdown is masking the true extent of impending redundancies in the sector, Pendragon boss Bill Berman has told AM.
Speaking to AM following this morning’s announcement that the former AM100-topping car retail group will make 1,800 redundancies across its business – including the closure of 15 retail sites – the Pendragon chief executive said that “things are going to look very different” by the end of 2020.
“We’re living in a false economy to some extent,” said Berman. “The sheer amount of redundancies that are going to happen just haven’t hit the market yet.
“The Government furlough scheme has been a great help and the recovery of the sector post-lockdown has been phenomenal, but after you get through October and all these redundancies hit things are going to look very different.
“With Brexit concerns, which will also have a high impact on certain car brands, things could look very uncertain for some time to come.”
Earlier this month Lookers announced its plan to axe 1,500 jobs as it looked to cut costs in-light of the COVId-19 pandemic, while yesterday (July 29) Imperial Cars revealed its plans to make redundancies.
Today, Berman told AM that around half of the 15 dealership closures that will be implemented across the Pendragon group had been done so “with the OEMs co-operation” and in-line with their plans to reduce their footprint and improve viability.
He said that the decision to axe 1,800 of the group’s workforce had been an emotional one, however.
“The hardest thing is that there is a human element to this,” he said. “There are no easy decision to make. It’s a case of looking at 6,000 people and giving them the ability to thrive and exist in the market that we exist in today and unfortunately that comes at the cost of others.”
Pendragon’s leadership was already planning a review of its UK operations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as Berman communicated to AM in an exclusive interview prior to the crisis.
A streamlining of the group’s CRM systems and other processes delivered improvements following the easing of lockdown measures in June and Berman said that the average sales executive was now selling 15 to 20 cars, as opposed to 12 to 15 prior to the crisis.
However, he said that the business needed to shed roles which could be considered “a luxury” or “a nice to have” to survive and thrive in “the new normal”.
The group’s new structure will undoubtedly have been affected by an ability to complete new and used car sales 100% online.
Yesterday Cazoo confirmed that it had entered consultation over redundancies – believed to be around 300 – among staff of the Imperial Cars car supermarket business, which it acquired just a fortnight ago, over redundancies that come as the business moves towards a more digital-led sales model.
Berman said that Pendragon had completed 3,000 car sales during lockdown, the vast majority of which had been completed “completely online”, with a home delivery.
Since the easing of lockdown restrictions he said that around 20% of the group’s sales had been completed in the same way.
Sceptical about digital retail
Berman remains sceptical about the long-term growth of online car retail, however.
He said: “I look at the digital sales process the same way I look at electric vehicles (EV). It’s inevitable. Adoption rates are currently stagnant, anaemic, though, despite all the specialist centres and infrastructure that’s been put in place and I see the same thing happening with the digitalisation of the sales process.
“We’ve going to have it and push on it but we are going to have to sell cars the way our customers want a to be sold to and if that means going through the 10-step face-to-face sales process that we had 20 years ago then we have to be able to provide that.”
Commenting on suggestion from Marshall chief executive Daksh Gupta that a breakaway pack of top AM100 retail group’s could soon dominate the UK sector following the impact of COVID-19, Berman said that some would grow and others would focus on a smaller footprint with successful brands.
But he insisted that Pendragon’s long-term focus remained on growth.
“I’ve no plans to get any smaller,” he said.
“If I could open another 10 Porsche Centres of 20 Ferrari stores I would. I want to grow. Even if that means we invest in Pinewood to leverage that digital side of the business, the aim remains to grow.”
See 2021 Cadillac Escalade Get Driven With Blocked Windshield
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade test units are out and about, and first drives have already been orchestrated. A handful of journalists and YouTubers have started pouring out content about the full-size luxury SUV. That includes us with our Escalade First Drive Review.
The Fast Lane, however, took a different route and made videos that are out of the ordinary. We’ve seen the channel do some off-roading with the Escalade, something owners won’t probably do when they get their hands on one.
This time, The Fast Lane Truck does a review with the Escalade’s bevy of tech toys. And as crazy as you would expect from the channel, the folks there tried to drive the SUV with a blocked windshield and front windows. How? By using the Escalade’s VR function displayed on the instrument panel. The resulting video was bonkers, which you can watch on top of this page.
Speaking of, the driver was able to go around the course without issues, twice even, and you can see in the video that he even reached speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) before coming to a halt.
Before you raise your pitchforks, let us all be reminded that TFL Trucks did the test on a close course, so the test looked safe. Although as expected, both the driver and his passenger felt queasy after the virtual drive. But overall, at least now we know that you can still drive the new Escalade even if your windshield got broken – so as long as the front camera’s intact.
See the full crazy test on video and let us know what you think through the comments section below.
Fancy Acer Book RS By Porsche Design Comes With Carbon Fiber Cover
Porsche RS models are revered for their performance both on and off the race track, as they are admired for their flurry of carbon fiber materials. Porsche Design is back with another collaboration to showcase its styling prowess – this time it’s with Acer and its latest laptop.
Named the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, this fancy laptop signifies a new partnership between the two brands, something that fuses Porsche Design’s functional design philosophy and engineering mindset with Acer’s technological innovations and deep-rooted knowledge in the global computer segment.
The high-end notebook comes with a minimalist design, but a closer inspection reveals a 3k carbon fiber cover, striking a contrast against the diamond-cut CNC-machined chassis. With the use of this lightweight material normally used for race cars, the entire Acer Book RS only weighs 2.76 pounds (1.25 kilograms) while only measuring 0.63 inches (15.99 millimeters) thin.
Underneath the classy body, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS is equipped with the latest 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processors with Intel Iris Xe graphics and optional discrete NVIDIA GeForce®MX350 GPUs and 16 GB of RAM. The 14-inch FHD IPS3 touchscreen is covered with a layer of Antimicrobial4 Corning Gorilla Glass with an immersive 90% screen-to-body ratio.
The Porsche Design Acer Book RS will be available in North America with a starting price of $1,399.99. A premium package, which comes with equally great-looking accessories such as premium package i7 notebook, travel pack, and mouse, will be priced at $1,999.99. This chic Acer laptop will also be available in Europe and in China.
This isn’t the first time that Porsche designed a gadget. Back in 2018, a Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS came into fruition, which had a price tag that started at $1,800.
GMC Hummer EV’s WTF Mode Does A Weird Song And Dance Before Launching
First thing’s first. What the heck is Watts to Freedom? In short, it’s the GMC Hummer EV version of Tesla’s Ludicrous Plus launch mode, both in function and in its gimmicky nature. What does that mean? Ludicrous refers to Ludicrous speed from the classic 1987 Sci-Fi spoof Spaceballs. Meanwhile, the acronym for GMC’s Watts To Freedom is WTF, and we’re sure you know what else that stands for. But wait, there’s more
Engage WTF mode in the recently revealed GMC Hummer EV, and you won’t just launch to 60 mph in three seconds. For starters, the truck will hunker down a couple of inches before putting its GM-estimated 1,000 horsepower (735 kilowatts) to the ground. That’s a functional component of going fast, but less functional are the sounds that emanate from the Hummer EV’s speakers and animations that pop up on its digital screens.
GMC doesn’t offer a specific description of what this means, but the B-roll footage below takes us through the process starting at the 28-second mark. Once activated, a low-pitch humming sound reverberates through the speakers, and a snazzy animation on the main screen morphs to a third-person view of a Hummer EV poised on a space-themed runway. Meanwhile, the dash displays “Watts To Freedom” with stars and bars, along with a message that advises “repeated usage will cause accelerated wear on vehicle.” The driver can choose cancel or let’s go, which isn’t quite as catchy as I want my mommy or bring it on but hey, you get the point.
Selecting let’s go puts the system into motion. The truck lowers (which is also shown on the instrument display) and the driver is eventually prompted to press the brake and accelerator. This is the interactive part, as the driver must brake hard enough to get the all-important green checkmark to then floor it, all while the sound increases in both intensity and annoyance.
With the pedals mashed and the Hummer EV ready, release the brake and it’s off to the races. Presumably, drivers will be concentrating on the road while sprinting to 60 mph, so they won’t see the mini starfield flashing on the digital instrument board next to the speed readout. However, everyone will hear what sounds like the USS Enterprise going to warp speed through the speakers. At least it’s more pleasant than the low-resonance buzzing that starts it all off.
Is the GMC Hummer EV fast? Yes, it certainly is. However, experiencing all the pomp and circumstance that’s not at all similar to Tesla’s various quirky Easter eggs could easily be considered gimmicky in the best of circumstances. We’re at least curious to try it all in person as opposed to seeing a close-up on a video, but we suspect these aspects of WTF Mode might have more than a few people asking WTF GMC was thinking with all this.
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