Sytner, the UK’s second biggest franchised dealer group, has moved into contract hire and leasing for the first time after acquiring Isaac Agnew Group in Northern Ireland.
Sytner’s managing director Gerard Nieuwenhuys says the Agnew business is a “remarkably close fit” in terms of outlook and culture. It also gives the company a new revenue stream through Agnew Corporate, the largest contract hire and leasing provider in Northern Ireland.
Agnew Corporate, established in 1995, was listed in the FN50 for the first time last year at number 33, with a risk fleet size of 3,500 vehicles.
Although Nieuwenhuys plans to expand his interest in fleet, he said it was too early to provide a definitive strategy.
Some industry experts predict the dealer group will look to expand Agnew Corporate into Great Britain.
However, Sytner bought Agnew for the retail businesses and said that it was incidental that it contained leasing.
Developing a lease fleet in England using the Irish experience is “a possibility”, it says, but leasing is something that the group has considered and dismissed in the past. The official line is that it is “too early to say”.
“Fleet is a very tough business with wafer thin margins. We like to think that we will provide the best service and try very hard never to compromise on that,” Nieuwenhuys said.
Sytner becomes the 12th dealer group to run a leasing business in the FN50, joining the likes of Pendragon, the UK’s biggest franchised dealer; Arnold Clark, which runs the largest dealer-owned leasing operation at number nine in the FN50; Inchcape; Lookers; and JCT600.
In total, franchised dealers are responsible for funding 135,747 company cars and vans – 11% of the total FN50. Much of their business is with smaller fleets.
Sytner is owned by Roger Penske, of the Penske Auto-motive Group in the US.
This is the second largest listed dealer company in the world behind Auto Nation, also American. Sytner’s in-house discipline has long been to expand by acquisition.
Agnew was founded in the 1940s and still has family members working within it though the principal is Yuile Magee. Volkswagen was the first franchise and Agnew created a parts distribution business after the war when spares were in very short supply.
The business got to know the Sytner people well and managers frequently swapped best practice ideas. Out of that a strong relationship was formed which ultimate led to this merger.
When the decision was made to develop contract hire 17 years ago, leadership was given to Andrew Agnew – one of the sons in the business.