Revamped Hi-Q Outlets to Be Unveiled Soon
June sees Neil Burrows take on the responsibilities of retail director at Goodyear Dunlop UK. So, as a way of welcoming him into his new position, Tyres & Accessories interviewed the company’s former marketing director and asked what the future holds for the recently re-vamped Hi-Q retail franchise.
At the end of 2005, Goodyear Dunlop UK announced plans to separate its consumer and commercial tyre retail businesses into two distinct Hi-Q and TruckForce networks. The move was designed to solve the perceived problems that had been encountered by the two sides of the business’ lack of synergy. This radical shake-up proved to have a dramatic effect on the network, with company’s aim being to improve its focus on both sides of the business. On the passenger side this meant introducing a strong “hard-franchising” policy, designed to keep standards and brand image consistent.
According to Trend Tracker, when the initial announcement was made there were 518 Hi-Q depots (197 owned equities, 29 franchised and 292 partners). The introduction of the new plans during the course of 2006 means that the current numbers may initially appear to have taken a big hit, but this belies the details of what’s happened here. It is worth remembering that Goodyear Dunlop took the strategic decision to rename roughly 292 of what were previously known as Hi-Q depots as Goodyear Dunlop partners – and to separate-off 83 “commercially orientated” outlets into TruckForce commercial vehicle specialists.
As a result there are currently 25 franchised and 120 equity Hi-Q stores, but the company has set its sights on adding another 100 outlets to this list. And Goodyear Dunlop is expecting to attract franchisees from “the tyre and broader aftermarket businesses” in order to achieve this goal.
“The whole project is now well underway – it is now about implementing what was planned,” Neil Burrows told T&A, explaining that he would be looking back to his experience at OEM dealer networks, back in the more distant past. Burrows has over two decades of automotive industry marketing experience including roles at Nissan Europe, where he was responsible for brand management and advertising on a pan-european basis. Previous to this international role, he was Marketing Director of Nissan (GB), joining the Japanese automotive giant in 1997 from Audi UK.
Putting the numerical expansion plans into perspective, Burrows affirmed that the strategy is about quality not quantity: “We want the optimum number of outlets and not necessarily the maximum. We don’t want to overload the franchise, geography is important here.”
Goodyear Dunlop is principally aiming to recruit its 100 new franchisees in England and Wales, but there are some even more specific target areas such as the North West, the South East and within the M25, where the network is looking to actively increase its presence. Other areas, such as the Midlands are already said to be well covered. “We have identified room – our research is quite specific in this,” said Burrows, adding: “The quality of outlets is what it is all about, we are really looking to raise the bar.”
In addition to the industry-wide problem of trying to shake off any perceived associations with the less professional end of the garage sector and generally improve standards, another reason Hi-Q’s new head is keen to raise the bar is in order satisfy increasingly demanding fleet requirements.
In order to measure the relative performance of its stores at customer service level, Burrows told T&A of its plans to introduce a whole new approach to training, with increased importance on customer satisfaction. The new “hard franchising” arrangement has also allowed room for standards to be improved. Transferring from the old to new franchise deal was by no means automatic.
“We now have quite a challenging franchise arrangement. Feedback from our various partners has been very useful in developing this,” said Burrows. However, despite the new higher level requirements, there appears to have been a positive result. “We are very pleased to say that all our current franchisees are of a sufficient standard to transfer to the new system,” explained Burrows.
Interested in seeing what a shiny new Hi-Q franchise looks like for yourself? Rumour has it that Goodyear Dunlop has plans to unveil its first newly re-branded Hi-Q outlet in the East Midlands shortly. Look out for further details in future issues of Tyres & Acccessories.