CAT Group has opened a €1m vehicle processing centre at the Port of Southampton in the UK so that it can become “the undisputed leader in the automotive logistics industry”.
It aims to do so by offering a range of bespoke services at the new facility, including delivery chain management, PDI, remarketing and accessories fitment, as well as full body repair.
The bold declaration comes despite the downturn affecting movements through Southampton. It delivered 63,184 in 2008, down from 90,526 vehicles in 2007. However, CAT UK’s Managing Director, Stuart Warren (pictured left) said he was “absolutely certain” that the company’s business through the port would recover, and he put the industry’s current problems down to cyclical economics.
The new facility is designed to process 100,000 new vehicles each year.
“Whether it is through necessity or choice there is always new demand,” he said. “It’s a market cycle that will come round. It may take another two years but we’ll be here and ready to take advantage of the upturn when it arises.”
Neither was he fazed by a potential backdated UK ports tax that provoked Gefco to say last week that it was considering pulling operations back from Sheerness in the UK to Calais in France should the bill go through (read more here).
For some companies operating at the Port of Southampton it could mean a rise of 67% in operating costs.
Commenting on the opposition to the tax Warren told Automotive Logistics, “We said it six months ago (read more here). We are still going through a due process of appeal…[and] we have won some concessions from the government from our lobbying of MPs on both sides of the House of Commons, as well as the House of Lords.
“My belief is that the law won’t change until there is a change of government,” he continued. “And even then it will have a low priority. We’ve tried to change some of the technical aspects of the way that we deal with imports and, without giving away too much, we have had some success with minimising the affects.”
Warren said he was intending to call Gefco this week to discuss the issue.
He was joined at the opening ceremony last Friday by CAT Group CEO Alejandro Forbes (pictured right) who verified that the company has enough space at Le Havre to store the vehicles it processes at Southampton as well as at compounds along the Seine.
However, the company’s commitment to the port was not in doubt and was recognised by Port Director Doug Morrison who said, “We are here to help CAT grow this business because the more that business grows the better it is for the port.”
A large part of that commitment relates to CAT’s relationship with Renault, which accounts for 83% of its business in the UK. “We have commitments to customers to maintain,” said Warren. “Whatever is thrown at us, we need to continue that customer service...[and] we are better off staying where we are in relation to the French factories.” But he also said that this was subject to more strategic options in the medium to long term.