How do you create long-term plans in automotive?

How do you create long-term plans in automotive?

Strategic planning is dead, long live strategy.

Even though we still have five months left of 2019, like many large businesses we are already thinking about our plans for 2020 and beyond. This process has made me think about long-term planning and how you can do it successfully in a fast-changing industry like ours.

Not too many years ago, those responsible for strategy in an organisation would define a long-term vision and set out a detailed five to ten-year plan showing how to achieve it. Strategic plans are still important to guide major and long-term investment decisions but for we are now operating in a world which demands more agility in adapting to market trends and changing customer needs.

For me though, a long-term vision is still just as important, even if it answers a different question. We still need an end-goal to strive for, something that defines what sort of business we want to be, but gives us flexibility on how we get there.

For our parent company in the USA, this is all wrapped up in the answer to the question ‘why’. Alex Taylor, President of Cox Enterprises has worked with visionary thinker and self-proclaimed ‘unshakable optimist’ Simon Sinek to develop our ‘why’. For us, it’s about empowering people today to build a better future for the next generation.

What we offer, our products and services, will change over time, but why we’re here and what we’re striving for will remain constant.

Personally, I’m also inspired by the work of the well-known strategic adviser (if such a thing exists) Max McKeown. Max offers some great insights into adaptability with his theories on the power of Now. In his view, thinking before you plan is great, but the secret to success is to carry on thinking, observing and researching so you can improve your plan based on what’s happening around you.

At Cox Automotive, we take this seriously, and our Data and Insight team is constantly reviewing our industry, keeping an eye on what’s happening, and identifying trends. In June, we published our annual Insight Report, which is our way of sharing the trends we’re observing with our customers, take a look here - www.coxauto.co.uk/insightreport

So how does it work in practice?

In our business, a great example of how we’re adapting but staying true to our long-term goal is our joint venture with Auto Trader. Together, we’re creating the UK’s largest wholesale digital marketplace.

It’s one way we’re adapting to the changes we see in the wholesale landscape. We know there’s a shift towards online, and a realignment of priorities as businesses adapt their physical infrastructure to enable digital growth.

We see an opportunity to help customers navigate complexity by developing a wholesale channel that brings together vehicles, data and insight, simplifying the process of sourcing stock. Alongside that, we have the physical network to offer complementary services like logistics and reconditioning, and we believe that demand for these services will increase as digital wholesale develops.

It’s a bold step that will change ‘how’ we do business, but it holds true to our ‘why’, our long-term vision.

Back to my original question – how do you do long-term planning in a fast-changing industry like ours?
I think you could sum it up in two steps. Firstly, define your long-term vision in a way that gives you flexibility – think about the why.

Secondly, plan to adapt. Use your long-term planning expertise to define how you’re going to monitor the market, so you’re in the best possible position to make the changes that will set you up for success.

That’s how we’re doing it, but I’d be interested to hear how other businesses are approaching the challenge. If you’ve got any thoughts to share, you can get in touch via LinkedIn.

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