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Advertisement feature - Jennings optimism follows buyout.

One of the region's top two motor retailing groups is preparing for future expansion with the creation of more jobs following a realignment of its business.

The Jennings Group, which is one of the North-East's longest-established companies, has undergone one of the most significant periods of transition in its 90-year history.

With a successful management buyout now completed the business is gearing up to consolidate its strong position in what is currently a difficult retail market.

New chief executive Nas Khan says: "Management buyouts involving businesses of this size can be complicated and stressful for all involved and can create periods of uncertainty for staff.

"We understand and appreciate what each and every one of our employees has been through and are extremely grateful for their support.

"We know that it has been an unsettled time for them, with all sorts of rumours flying around but whilst the MBO was a protracted affair it has now been concluded extremely satisfactorily and the business is in a strong position to move forward."

The disposal of the group's Durham operation saw turnover dip from just under pounds 168m to about pounds 153m last year but the current prediction is for that figure to rise again towards the pounds 160m mark this year.

New car sales fell from 6,400 to 5,300, used car sales were up slightly from 4,650 to 4,780, new commercial vehicle sales dipped from 1,785 to 1,380 and used commercials remained roughly static.

Mr Khan believes that this was an extremely creditable performance under the circumstances of the management buyout, the disposal of the Durham operation and trading conditions that are generally accepted through the trade as probably the toughest in recent memory.

The management team are confident that the business is now looking toward the future from a position of strength with an enviable portfolio of franchises and significant expansion on the horizon.

The current line-up consists of Ford operations at Morpeth, Washington, Gateshead, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Stockton and a Ford Direct supersite at South Shields.

There are additional franchises of Mazda, Seat and Subaru at the Middlesbrough supersite plus Mazda at Washington and commercial vehicle operations at Middlesbrough, Gateshead and Sunderland.

By mid-summer the group's new dealership on a prominent seven-acre site in a prime position on Wessington Way, Sunderland, will be operational to accommodate Ford and Mazda with the creation of as many as 20 new jobs.

This will take the total number of employees back up towards the 650 mark with the expectation of a continued gradual increase as the business expands.

Current predictions are for the group's total new car sales to rise to 6,000 this year and for used car sales to top the 5,000 mark.

Ford continues to be the nation's favourite car brand and now there is an all-new Transit light commercial vehicle range too, which is also the UK's best seller.

Mr Khan concludes: "We have a multi-million pound investment in our new operation at Sunderland, which we are naturally very excited about but otherwise we are looking towards a period of consolidation for the next three to five years.

"It has been a trying period for a while but nonetheless we achieved the coveted Ford of Britain Chairman's Award yet again in 2005 for the 14th time and it is extremely reassuring to know that our customer loyalty remains as strong as ever.

"This continued and valued loyalty to the business and the immensely strong position that the company now finds itself in gives us the enthusiasm to move forward with tremendous confidence"
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 21, 2006
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