When it was announced that Mercedes-Benz dealer Rygor Commercials (Gloucester) had won the Commercial Motor Awards category for Forecourt/Showroom of the Year 2018, it came as no surprise. We first visited the site two years ago, when the paint was barely dry on this new dealership, which replaced the outgrown premises at nearby Tewkesbury. Our host for this return visit was sales director and truck dealer principal John Keogh.
Rygor is the largest Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealer in the south-west of England, with 11 locations ranging from Nuneaton down to Heathrow and across to Chilcompton in Somerset. Although Rygor’s head office remains at its original home of Westbury, its flagship branch is the new 3.5-acre site in Gloucester, handy for the M5 and, usefully for online customers who buy trucks unseen, Gloucester’s main railway station.
Arriving at the site, whether in a car or a 44-tonner, you immediately appreciate that Rygor has addressed one of the biggest challenges of truck dealerships, finding somewhere to park. Not only does Rygor Gloucester have plenty of room, but the spaces are fit for purpose, from the asphalt-surfaced light vehicle spaces large enough to accommodate the biggest Sprinter to the separate concrete truck section including nine bays that will take a full-size artic.
It’s only by the presence of vans and pick-ups that you realise you aren’t in the showroom of a Mercedes-Benz car dealership, essential given that the X-Class is targeted as much at the lifestyle vehicle market as vocational users. Apparently the UK is the only market where the new pick-up is being sold through the CV network, everywhere else in Europe treating it as a car derivative. The showroom includes a welcoming front-of-house receptionist to steer you to the right area – whether sales, service or parts – and there’s a mezzanine wifi enabled working area, spotless toilets and, most importantly, decent coffee on tap. The parts counter is particularly impressive, with a Lean-Lift system going to fetch all bar a few fast-moving items to the counter.
Sales direct from the Gloucester showroom are mainly vans.
Having said that, one recent visitor bought a one-year-old Actros to pull a motorhome made from a converted ex-racing trailer, and another recently bought a Unimog for recreational use. However, despite being lled with new vans and pick-ups, the showroom was designed to accommodate larger products, and will be pressed into action shortly with the dealership launch of the new Actros 5.
Rygor’s parts stock was increased by 6% in the spring in anticipation of the Brexit false start, and will remain in place until there’s a resolution one way or another. This raises not just extra cost issues, but puts pressure on storage space. Sales-wise, the only negative impact so far has been a slowdown in the construction sector, but Keogh remains optimistic, saying: “People should be prepared for a sudden switch-on of major projects.” Other trends in truck sales have been harder to quantify.
Vans, meanwhile, are certainly heading upwards, year-to-date orders being up 25%, with Sprinter doing well but the biggest rise coming from Vito, while Citan is reported to be selling well to operators looking for a smaller van with truck dealer benefits.
The Gloucester workshop is much busier at the moment after one key client, Ryder, closed its own workshop. Its ATF lane, however, remains short of testing staff, and Keogh expresses his frustration. “We can’t see a way out. [Working for the] DVSA is not an attractive proposition to apprentices.”
Keogh is very much a hands-on boss, and manages personally to sell some 100 vans and 50 trucks a year. As is the case throughout the network, the imminent Actros 5 is keenly anticipated, and at the time of our early summer visit, 30 were already on order. Keogh confirmed Mercedes’ claim that no-one has yet chosen to delete the controversial MirrorCam. Interestingly, around 30% of early orders are from medium-sized operators not currently running Mercedes products.
As a group, Rygor’s ownership of a branch on the doorstep of the environmentally sensitive Heathrow Airport means it keeps a close eye on alternative fuels. The branch is already one of the originally appointed service points for the Fuso e-Canter operational trials in London. Now, electric Vitos are selling well and there’s huge potential interest in an electric Sprinter, Keogh saying he could sell every one he gets his hands on.
- The Commercial Motor Awards return on Thursday 28 November 2019 at The Vox Centre, Birmingham, celebrating the best in new and used commercial vehicle sales and aftersales. The awards welcomes not only dealers, but also bodybuilders, finance, rental, leasing and contract hire providers. Enter now for free and have your excellence recognised by the industry.