07/11/2006 - 21:00

Hughes shakes up Ford

07/11/2006 - 21:00

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Car dealer John Hughes turned 70 last December, but instead of slowing down and planning for retirement, he has purchased a new dealership.

Hughes shakes up Ford

Car dealer John Hughes turned 70 last December, but instead of slowing down and planning for retirement, he has purchased a new dealership.

The indefatigable Mr Hughes completed the purchase of Park Ford in Bentley last week, creating an energetic challenger to Perth’s incumbent Ford dealers, which are led by listed company Automotive Holdings Group.

The auto industry is abuzz with talk that AHG was unhappy with Mr Hughes’ move back into the Ford market, but an AHG spokesman denied these rumours.

“We are already in competition with John in Mitsubishi and Hyundai and we look forward to continuing to joust with him,” the spokesman said.

Ironically, Mr Hughes’ re-entry to the Ford market was made possible by AHG’s break-up of the Perth Auto Alliance, which previously owned most Ford dealerships.

In fact, formation of the alliance in 1999 triggered Mr Hughes decision to sell Titan Ford, which at the time was Perth’s biggest Ford dealer.

Mr Hughes said he always doubted the veracity of Ford dealers jointly owning each other’s business.

“It was doomed to failure from the start,” he said, because it required competitors to become partners.

The break-up of the alliance was completed late last month, when AHG bought out minority shareholder Ford International Capital Corporation.

That allowed AHG to gain full ownership of Challenger, Titan and Lynford, in addition to its existing ownership of NuFord and Seaview Ford.

As part of the deal, the Alliance sold three other dealerships so that AHG’s market share in the Perth metropolitan area stayed just under 50 per cent.

Range Ford and Park Ford were bought jointly by Toni Lehany, who already owns Northwest Ford and Karratha Mitsubishi.

Ms Lehany said she initially planned to keep both of the Perth operations but, with major redevelopment planned for Range, she agreed to sell Park.

“John came to me with a proposal and it seemed like a good deal for the Ford brand,” she said.

“I saw value in his integrity for the Ford brand going forward.”

Mr Hughes auto business now covers the Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Volkswagen dealerships in Victoria Park and Park Ford in Bentley.

His existing business has an annual turnover of about $300 million, and Mr Hughes said the Park Ford acquisition would help to lift group turnover to about $350 million.

Meanwhile, the two other dealerships sold by the alliance were Midway Ford, which was purchased by dealer principal Ralph Cipro, and Centre Ford, which was bought by former Wollongong car dealer Steve Katopadis, who runs the business with his son Philip.

Mr Katopadis said there was a lot of support for Centre Ford being back in family ownership.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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