Shell buys Kwik-Fit’s Polish service chain
The re-organisation of Kwik-Fit took another step forward in early October, when it was announced that the company’s 11 car servicing centres in Poland had been acquired by Shell Polska.
It was in November 1999 that Sir Tom Farmer first mentioned that Kwik-Fit was to open in Poland, influenced in no small part by the close relationship that had been built up between the UK retailer and the Polish tyre factory in Debica, where Kwik-Fit’s private brand Arrowspeed was manufactured.
The fact that the Polish operation did not figure highly in the new, post-Ford, Kwik-Fit’s future plans was hinted at when T&A interviewed CEO Tim Parker in August. Parker said that Kwik-Fit “wanted to be number one fast-fit in the UK, France and Germany”, so the disposal of the Polish operations was not a total surprise.
Unsurprisingly, the purchase price was not revealed, but Shell did say that the acquisition “is the first stage in building a modern chain of car workshops in Poland.” The centres will be rebranded as “Shell autoserv” early next year – currently there are over 150 autoserv service centres operating in Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Thailand and Singapore. It is planned that the Polish centres will offer drivers a full range of services and there are plans to expand the network. Initially, the network will be complemented by Shell’s petrol stations, but the company has plans to be operating a network of at least 70 service centres by 2008. This was revealed by Graeme Robinson, who is managing director of Shell autoserv in Poland and who, incidentally, was MD of Kwik-Fit Poland. Of the 11 centres, five are in Warsaw and there is one each in the large urban conurbations of Bydgoszcz, Poznan, Gdansk, Gdynia, Lodz and Krakow and, in total, there are over 130 employees.
With Kwik-Fit’s plans to divest itself of operations that it regards as non-core, the sale makes perfect sense, but what was the attraction for Shell? It appears that Shell regards the Polish market as fast developing and potentially very lucrative, saying that the car servicing market is currently worth around $855 million and growing at a rate of 4.6 per cent a year. It is also fragmented, with some 16,000 independent workshops, 1,200 franchised workshops and 300 workshops owned by large chains. Shell autoserv plans to offer “the highest standards of service at competitive prices”, according to Graeme Robinson. In addition to changing tyres, oil and brake pads, the plan is for Shell autoserv to offer customers technical inspections, as well as more complex repairs.