Cambria Automobiles chairman and chief executive Mark Lavery has said his business is ready to enter “chapter two” of its development after the appointment McLaren finance director Paul Buddin as CFO.
Speaking to AM almost 15 months on from the re-privatisation of the former PLC, Lavery said that he had been “incredibly fortunate” to be able to make the “top drawer” new appointment as the business looks to diversify and grow in a sector experiencing once in a lifetime changes.
Buddin joins Cambria nine months after former Cambria chief financial officer James Mullins left to become chief executive of Constellation Automotive’s cinch online used car retail offering, having been with the business since 2007.
“Paul is the first CFO we’ve ever appointed,” Lavery said. “He was FD of McLaren’s automotive operation before he moved into a group role which incorporated Formula One and Technology.
“He gives us credibility. He certainly talks bank terms to bankers, which is important when you want to grow as we do.
“I think people thought that we were going to put on our slippers and ease back once we had gone private again, but the reality is the polar opposite.”
Cambria was the AM100’s 31st-placed car retail group in 2022 after achieving a turnover up 7.5% in the 12 months to August 31, 2021, at £563.1 million. Profit before tax rose 113.7% to £21.8m in the same period.
The group transitioned to become a more luxury focussed car retail operation in 2016 and its 43-site operation includes brand partners: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Citroen, Ford, Fiat, INEOS, Jaguar, Jeep, INEOS, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mazda, McLaren, Peugeot, Rolls-Royce, Suzuki, Vauxhall and Triumph.
Lavery told AM that Cambria’s focus in the coming months included the relaunch of its Motor Parks operations as a “sustainable version of the used car supermarket model” in September following a trial period in Warrington.
Elsewhere, emphasis continues to be placed on the growth of the SOGO leasing and Repair and Maintenance Plans (RAMP) businesses as Cambria (which incorporates the Doves, Grange, Dees, Invicta and Pure Triumph brands) is consolidated into the high luxury part of the market, Lavery said.
SOGO Mobility, which is run by former Citroen UK director Karl Howkins, delivered a profit of £2.97m (2020/21: £688k loss) in the 12 months to August 31, 2022, as its turnover rose from £4.7m to £25m.
“There’s a lot going on, we’re calling it the start of chapter two,” Lavery said. “It’s going to be a busy year.”
Death of the PLC?
Lavery is clearly optimistic about the group’s future and glad to be free of the scrutiny that came with being a PLC.
He believes that it is possible that the automotive retail PLC model will be consigned to history by 2025.
“By 2025 I don’t think we will see any because, put simply, the investment opportunity that’s there isn’t seen by the investment community.
“Look at the value attributed to businesses like Vertu and Lookers. It is in no way reflective of their scale or of the two absolutely cracking years that the sector has just had.
“Maybe agency model retail has spooked investors.”
He added: “When we publish our results in May people will see that we’ve had a good year and it was pointless being a listed business anymore.
“With all due respect to our former shareholders, I spent far too long listening to people tell me what to do and how to do it. Now it’s time to get on with business.”