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In the Spotlight: DFC

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The acquisition of two large competitors within Northern Ireland by franchised dealer groups Lookers and Sytner leaves DFC as the only major locally owned vehicle management company.

The two men who have led the company for over a decade continue to guide its fortunes and are in a confident mood about the marketplace in 2013 and going forward.

But both Uel Butler and Peter Shaw are quick to admit that the past number of years hasn’t been easy.

“We were hit by something of a perfect storm back in 2008,” says Shaw. “Our customers were hit by the recession, and local banks’ appetite for asset finance effectively become non existent overnight due to the global credit crunch.

“But challenging times can sometimes do you a favour. We’ve adapted to changes and come out the other end. We’ve made hard decisions and we’re very confident that we can offer even more value and even better deals to our customers going forward.”

DFC has forged close business partnerships with three major European funders which operate in the UK.

“These organisations purchase over 50,000 vehicles per year and so have huge buying power. DFC can offer this benefit to Northern Ireland businesses and with the new personal contract hire product, also for individuals,” says Shaw.

“We can offer the kind of exceptional deals customers in mainland GB are getting to our customers here in Northern Ireland. We can now provide unlimited funding and alternative credit lines in addition to local business banking.

DFC will shortly be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Over the years its business ethos has remained changed, according to Butler.

“We’ve always concentrated on offering a consistently high level of personal service to our customers, and if anything, that is set to become even more important in the future,” he says.

“We have empowered, experienced people, accessible 24/7 to deal with emergency situations and we always go the extra mile to make sure customers and their drivers are always mobile.”

But the company is aware that some of its customers are finding it harder to look too far ahead. To that end, it has expanded its DFC Rental Operation, providing cars on short-term rental deals to customers, and has also introduced a number of mini-lease options - once again majoring on short-term commitment.

“We also combine exceptional deals with the fact that we’re the largest independent provider here in Northern Ireland,” says Butler.

“Our board of directors have always and will always be accessible and actively involved with our customers. We are increasingly finding that Northern Ireland business owners like to deal with a locally owned company run by local people.”

DFC works with a wide variety of customers, ranging from larger organisations with multiple fleets through to many smaller companies with only two or three cars on the road. It also offers personal contract hire to a range of self-employed, sole traders and private individuals

The company’s purpose-built base in Belfast’s Airport Road area also houses an increasingly busy department selling ex-fleet cars and vans headed by Trevor Armstrong.

“That kind of flexibility is what it is all about in these challenging and changing times,” says Butler.

“There’s no doubt that the economic climate has sharpened everyone’s focus. Value and keeping costs down is the name of the game.

“Customers are looking at whole life costs, and they’re looking at brands they perhaps wouldn’t have considered before. The rise of Kia and Hyundai models is clear evidence of that.”

Both Butler and Shaw are confident but realistic about the business prospects in 2013 and beyond.

“We’re looking forward to the year ahead, and we’re as fit and energetic as we’ve ever been,” says Shaw.

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