Alcopa leaves car importing business

The Belgian investment company Alcopa (owned by the Moorkens family) sells the remaining 40% of its shares in Astara Western Europe (formerly Alcomotive). Alcopa was active in the car importing and distributing business since its founding by Albert Moorkens and his wife Constance in 1937 but sold already 60% of its automotive division to Spanish Astara (formerly Bergé Auto) in August 2020.

The deal has still to be approved by the European competition authorities. However, in a press release, Alcopa states “that it has become obvious that complete integration of Astara Western Europe into Astara was the most efficient way. That way, it can fully benefit from the integration in a large group.”

Drastic step

Damien Heymans and Axel Moorkens, current MDs of Alcopa, see this as “an important and drastic step for Alcopa, which was deeply embedded in the world of motor cars.” The investment company will now concentrate on its other companies. Among them, there’s still some automotive business with Moteo (import of two-wheelers) and Scancar (involving Volvo and Polestar dealers).

But for a long time, automotive hasn’t been the only focus of Alcopa anymore. There are commitments in many companies, for example, Group Thys (doors, floors, kitchens, bathrooms…), the online pharmacy Viata or the producer of window films Solar Screen.

Spanish

Astara (formerly Bergé Auto) is a Spanish car distribution giant. The Astara Group is active globally and realized a turnover of €4 billion last year. The target is set at €5,5 billion this year, to be augmented to €6,3 billion in 2023. Astara Western Europe (formerly Alcomotive) has a turnover of some €485 million and counts some 250 employees.

For its newly created daughter, Astara has even bigger plans. Where Alcomotive had 8 000 mobility users in 2021, this has to increase to 22 000 this year and up to a whopping 215 000 next year. Moreover, the number of cars sold has to increase from 200 000 last year to 230 000 this year and 265 000 in 2023. Astara Western Europe distributes brands like Hyundai, Isuzu, Maxus, MG, SsangYong, and Suzuki in the Benelux, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.

Car distribution is not dead

Lately, we have seen a lot of movements by companies leaving the car retail trade. Still, Astara Western Europe believes in its dealer network, although the dealers will continue under their name, and the network will become leaner. “We will keep to our existing contracts,” says COO Olivier Sermeus, “but the setting will change. A car seller will become more of a counselor and advise the future client differently. Nevertheless, it will still have a bright future if we successfully reorientate our distribution network.”

Astara Western Europe counts more than 700 selling points and some 375 dealers. “Showroom traffic has indeed diminished,” admits Sermeus, “but direct internet sales stay marginal. Logistics will still play an important role, and the car dealer is well placed here. Mobility companies have often underestimated this aspect until now.” Astara Western Europe wants to add new brands to its importing portfolio at relatively short notice.

Despite this deep faith in the traditional side of the automotive business, Sermeus is not blind to an evolving society. “Trends we see already in other areas, like Netflix or HelloFresh, we couldn’t yet imagine five years ago. Now, these new habits will also arrive in the automotive sector. Again, data will play a significant role here.”

“Astara will remain a decentralized group of five global ‘hubs’ with a certain autonomy in their specific markets, but all the service platforms and mobility solutions will be developed in common,” Sermeus concludes.

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