Kent-based car dealers Whitehouse Group, founded by post-war racing driver Bill Whitehouse, embarked on ambitious expansion plans in 1995 when it brought in new management. The company made several acquisitions, including that of local rivals Rawsons Group, in a bank-funded deal worth £4m. This doubled the group’s turnover in two years. Whitehouse Group also improved profitability by cutting loss-making models from its showrooms and focusing on higher margin models. It drove up profits by 56% pa, from £1.8m in 1996 to £6.9m in 1999. Sales increased by 45% pa in the same period to reach £169.1m. Whitehouse’s son, Brian, now company chairman, believes car dealer networks will survive the 2002 review of the UK’s exemption from European competition laws on importing and selling cars. But he says the Group may need a cash injection to fund further expansion as manufacturers, dealers and second-hand car supermarkets slug it out for market share.
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