Five minutes with… Geoff Dowding, Executive Director, Global Sales and Aftersales
As Lotus begins to reopen its retail facilities around the world, we speak to Geoff Dowding about the transformation of the Lotus retail network.
You started with Lotus just over a year ago, in April 2019. What have been your business priorities since then?
The team has spent a lot of time looking at the retail network and talking to the dealers. We’ve outlined the potential for growth, the open points in the network we need to fill, the likely investment in systems and processes, and the need for dedicated people. And we’re asking the dealers if they want to be part of that future for Lotus.
What is the retail strategy for Lotus?
It comes from Vision80 – our overall strategy that’s driving the transformation of Lotus – and is about expanding the global network to meet our targets. We have 165 retailers around the world as of now, and we sell the largest share of our cars in the UK and continental Europe. There’s room for significant growth in many other places, particularly North America which is a sleeping giant for us. We are looking to expand in existing markets, as well as finding opportunities in new ones. For example, South Africa was big for Lotus in the past and we have a large number of cars already in that market, but we have no presence now. We are addressing that hopefully with a new partner very soon. Another example is New Zealand plus some of the emerging Asian and South American markets too.
Presumably China is on your list as well?
Yes, of course. A lot of business there is word of mouth, so quality of representation is key, particularly when it comes to customer service and aftersales. There are many tier one locations in China that we’d like to enter.
What about in the UK?
There are five major cities we want to be in – London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. The next level is the likes of Leicester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, and we see about 25 of those opportunities. We are in some already and other are open points. In each location we can work with a current retailer or a new partner, and every area is a unique project. We want up to 30 UK sites in the medium term, with inner London and Birmingham the two top priorities right now.
What sort of retail partners does Lotus want to support the Vision80 strategy?
Globally, the profile of the network today differs from location to location. We have private owners and families, PLCs and conglomerates, and we’re part of other businesses covering motorsport, classic car sales and vehicle restoration. What I’ve seen is that for the vast majority of those, the passion and loyalty towards Lotus is really extraordinary. That’s the magic which has kept the business alive. If we can harness that energy and commitment in a way that’s appropriate for the growth we have planned, we have a really great recipe for success.
What measures are you putting in place now?
We are working on a series of dealer support initiatives – things like rolling out the new corporate identity, improved dealer training, better processes, higher levels of local marketing activity, better aftersales facilities. It’s a focus on people who work in our retailers, motivating them for the journey ahead. Integration of dealers into our long-term planning will go a long way to engaging them in the brand, making them feel better connected to Hethel and a bigger part of the family.
It sounds like there’s plenty of work to be done?
There’s a huge amount and we can’t do it all at once. The danger is starting everything and finishing nothing, so we’re taking it step by step. It’s very easy to jump to quick decisions but that’s not the right approach. Everything will be deployed progressively and pragmatically.