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Customer service the number one objective for Sandown Group

New owner of Mercedes-Benz of Newbury outlines the company's philosophy

Keith Jackman
Keith Jackman

THE new owner of Newbury’s Mercedes-Benz dealership has promised to put its customers first.

The Sandown Group officially completed the acquisition of the franchise from the Syntner Group on February 4.

And although the showroom and forecourt remain closed in line with the current coronavirus restrictions, the message is that they are still very much open for business and looking forward to welcoming customers back.

The addition of the London Road site is the latest Mercedes-Benz addition to the group’s portfolio, since its opening of a new service centre in Farnborough in 2019.

Sandown’s managing director, Gavin McAllister, said that he was honoured to welcome Mercedes-Benz of Newbury and its staff into the group, describing the acquisition as a “special moment”.

He said: “In terms of its location and proximity to our other retailers, Newbury is a perfect fit that enables us to reach into West Berkshire so its addition is an important step in our ongoing growth.”

The Mercedes-Benz of Newbury facility features a seven-car showroom and an Approved Used display of 40 vehicles, increasing Sandown’s group stock to more than 700 cars. It also features an eight-bay workshop.

Sandown said in a statement published on its website that “the majority of Mercedes-Benz of Newbury’s existing 44-strong workforce will remain with the business”.

The Newbury dealership is being overseen by new general manager Keith Jackman, who has been a member of Sandown’s senior management team for many years and previously headed up its Basingstoke and Guildford sites.

Mr Jackman said that although Sandown has been unable to welcome people through the doors, it has simply found creative and imaginative ways to bring the dealership to the customer instead.

He said: “Our workshop is still open, so we are carrying out services, MOTs and repair work as usual and we have a special drop-off point which is Covid-secure.

“Although our forecourt and showroom are closed, everything can still be done without actually visiting us.

“If you want to purchase a car you can do so online and click and collect it from us. If you want to test drive a vehicle you still can as we can deliver the car to your home.

“We did offer that service before Covid, but we didn’t make a big thing about it because people generally prefer to come in to see us.

“But as soon as Covid hit we obviously promoted it a lot more to make people more aware of it.

“It has allowed us to supply vehicles to customers and almost carry on as normal, which has been fantastic.”

Mr Jackman said that apart from a newly-refurbished showroom and the new signage, customers were unlikely to notice a huge difference when they are able to return, despite the change of ownership.

“To be honest, not an awful lot has changed,” he said. “When we bought the franchise from them [Syntner] we kept almost all the existing staff so a lot of the faces that greet you will be the same.

“The thing that we focus on very much at the Sandown Group is customer service.

“That is our number one objective. We look after customers to ensure they come back and that they’re happy.”

Mr Jackman also provided reassurances that the showroom would be fully Covid-secure when they are able to reopen it.

He said: “We’ve got screens up, hand sanitisers around the building, signage in the waiting areas and around the showroom.

“We have also moved the seating and tables around to make sure it is absolutely safe for customers, and of course our staff as well.”

Mr Jackman says the one thing he wants to do is challenge the common misconception that main dealers are more expensive than independent garages, saying that Sandown makes an effort to not be beaten on price.

“We have something called a platinum discount, which actually means we will match or even beat local independent retailers on cost,” he said.

“There are many benefits of coming to a main dealer that you don’t get when you go to an independent retailer – you’ve got the product knowledge and Mercedes-Benz-trained technicians, the courtesy cars.

“Also, if you come to us for your service it renews your Mercedes-Benz Motability, so basically gives you your RAC cover for 12 months, which in itself is valued at about £250.”

The Sandown Group brings together Mercedes-Benz of Basingstoke, Dorchester, Guildford, Farnborough, Hindhead, Poole and Salisbury – and now Newbury – under one name.

The group started its relationship with Mercedes-Benz more than 30 years ago and remains a specialist Mercedes-Benz only dealer group.

To find out more, visit www.sandown-group.co.uk

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