Stéphane Sertang, CEO Ginion Group: ‘Distribution is Tesla’s weak point’
Stéphane Sertang is the CEO of Ginion Group, an important BMW/Mini and Ferrari car dealer in the Belgian landscape but also the importer of Rolls-Royce and McLaren among other things. He talks about the huge challenges car dealers face.
Stéphane Sertang started the growth of the Ginion Group in 1998, when he took over the car dealership of his father in law. Today the group counts 11 activity poles, sells BMW (cars and bikes), Mini and Volvo in the Brussels region, sells Ferraris in Belgium and Luxembourg and imports Rolls-Royce and McLaren in Belgium.
Apart from that, the group is interested in new mobility (involved in Zen Car). It just launched its Mobility Solutions division and recently invested in CenEnergy (solutions for recharging electric cars). The Group has 260 employees, made a turnover of 183 million euro in 2017, thanks to the sales of 4.500 cars.
“Concerning the real luxury brands, things are going very well”, Sertang starts. “In the premium sector it’s much more ‘touchy’. There we are influenced by the new WLTP regulations, which play an important role in the fleet market. Fleet managers have difficulties to see what is going to happen, and they adopt a waiting attitude.”
Do you notice it in the sales volumes?
“Not so much yet, but we will see the results in the coming months. At Ginion, we’re realizing the figures of 2016 at the moment, the entire 2017 growth has disappeared. This is due to WLTP and not to ‘cash for cars’. Also the legislation on hybrids played its role in 2017, but now it’s the fleet market that suffers. Fortunately we can compensate it partly with good individual sales.”
If the fleet sector waits, they will come back?
“That’s what everybody is hoping. We also depend on what will be decided on the European level, but Belgium is more concerned because of its large fleet market. We will have to move swiftly after everything is cleared out when it comes to regulations.
But aren’t margins more interesting in individual sales?
“We lived fairly comfortably because we had these big volumes in fleet (especially with BMW), now we will have to turn more to the individual buyers. I like that, because you have more direct grip and margins are higher. But it’s not easy.”
You already indicated the good figures for Rolls-Royce. Now they are launching a SUV. Good news?
“I’ve seen the final product and it’s a real Rolls. There’s still no official distributor for the Paris area and for Spain and Portugal and we try to come in. At the moment I’m already selling over there, directly or via a mandate system. They are strange markets, hit very hard by the crisis, but if the money is still there, they buy incredibly high. There’s a tendency toward hyper luxury and hyper specialization.
Has the decline of the diesel also an impact on the dealer, like it has on the factory side?
“It goes very quickly and your stock management isn’t easy. On the Mini side I almost don’t sell diesels anymore. On the BMW side figures are sliding downwards too, everyone thinks and hopes it will land at a 20 to 30% market share.”
“We try to follow the evolution closely, we read a lot in the press, we have the chance that we are selling brands with a vision. And we are interested in new mobility solutions. Our job is changing very quickly. In the future the market will be divided between the functional car for mobility, possibly autonomous, and the car for pleasure. People are still willing to spend money. We therefore have to invest, we have to provide events, sporty or leisure, that’s also why we created Boutsen Ginion.”
Is there still room for premium brands in the future?
“It depends on their history and image. Even a Google run car has to be maintained, whatever brand it is. They have to be distributed and maintained and that’s where we come in. The most important is to diversify and share the risks.”
“That’s the mistake Tesla has made. It wanted to do everything: producing, distributing, take older cars back. Tesla has big merits, but this is not about selling cell phones. The distribution system is Tesla’s weak point.”