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Groupe PSA - Q&A Article with MG Cannon’s Robert Snook

Recently Groupe PSA e-News caught up with Robert Snook, Chief Executive Officer of MG Cannon, which operates from ten sites – six main accident repair centres and four smart repair centres - covering 11 counties with 36 motor manufacturer brand approvals. We took the opportunity to ask him several questions about MG Cannon, the increase in electric vehicles, his predictions for the future as well as some other hot topics on the industry to-do list. 

For those who don’t know MG Cannon can you please give us a brief history and how/why you became involved? Our name MG Cannon comes from our founder Mike Cannon, who started the business over 60 years ago. We became a limited company after the MBO on his retirement in 2004. I joined the business in June 2012 as the new MD. I believed the industry trends and the future industry landscape meant we had an opportunity to develop the business and create something that had never been done before, that apparently “couldn’t be done”. The other owners and I found that an exciting proposition. While our business today is unrecognisable from the local, single site with 12 full time employees we had back in 2012, we value our history and see it as our solid foundation and important part of our continuing journey and brand credential.  

Currently 5 of your accident repair centres carry either Peugeot, DS or Citroën approval, what is your reaction to the recent announcement of the new 2020 Multi-Brand Approval Programme? Confidence. The Groupe PSA acquisition of the Vauxhall Opel business looks like being a great deal and the merger with FCA will provide further opportunities in time.  I believe moving to a multi-brand approval programme was the correct, but only decision if we are all going to realise the opportunities we have. There will inevitably be some more consolidation in all aspects of the collision industry, this is an irrefutable industry trend already, but we now have the structure to enable us to connect everything up and drive the multi brand network forward to new levels. 

The MG Cannon Group has a large number of motor manufacturer approvals and relationships, you even go so far as to list your franchised dealership partners on your website, why is this so important to you? It’s about what is important to the customer. What is important to the customer is important to us. When a customer has an accident and is at the point of choosing his repairer, we want to appear to be the clear and obvious choice however the customer searches. Being able to be quickly and clearly seen as the brand approved repairer, their local retailer’s nominated repairer and us proudly marketing ourselves as the approved repairer for their area, means that the customer can clearly see the brand alignment and have confidence in receiving a quality repair and customer experience throughout. 

How do you see the increase in electric vehicles and vehicle technology affecting the accident repair sector, how quickly do you see this happening and what plans have you in place to be prepared? You cannot un-invent something hence why a market never goes backwards, only forwards. Vehicle technology is being invented faster than it can be built into the cars at the factory. It is being built into the cars faster than some network owners can build their network capability to repair it and faster than some training organisations can provide the training courses and capacity to train people how to repair it. The change to electric vehicles and the pace of technology change will never be as slow as it is today ever again, yet we are already off the pace as an industry in how we understand what is required to safely and correctly repair electric and ADAS assisted vehicles. The increase in these models is being driven by legislation for cleaner cars, but also by the customers – after all who really enjoys going to a petrol station? In MG Cannon, we prepared ourselves by embracing the change, getting involved as an early adopter and understanding how the new technology could benefit our business, rather than remaining in a state of denial and unconscious incompetence. Today we see electric vehicles of multiple brands in MG Cannon sites every day as a result and saw our Sean Spinks win MET Technician of the Year at the Bodyshop Magazine awards. However, I think we are just coming to the point where it will have the real impact for the industry and by the end of 2022 the winners will be emerging, even if the industry’s electric journey is not complete by then.  

Thinking about the shift to electric vehicles we understand that MG Cannon use a specialist consultant company to make sure you are buying your energy at the right price as well as continual bill auditing and for energy efficiency advice at each site, as the demand for electricity increases. Can you tell us more about this? 

Our industry generally focuses more on physical things like material and parts discounts when assessing potential cost savings because we see, touch and understand it. Whereas utilities like electricity are unseen and regarded as a specialist area rather than a commodity. In short, we concentrate on running a bodyshop, not running a business. However, this has an equally dramatic effect on your net profit if you don’t proactively manage it and continually ensure you are getting the best value for the money you invest in it. We use ECA Group to manage this for us and have found the resulting benefits of their proactive, ‘front foot’ approach to be excellent in reducing our energy overheads, managing the increases in supplier tariffs and switching us to either cheaper or better suppliers and reduced usage options like LED lighting.

Can you tell us what the MG Cannon “MAGIC” sites are, why they were created and how are they going?

Magic is our smart repair division. It works on a hub and spoke principle with the adjacent MG Cannon sites to provide a local option for minor cosmetic scuffs, scratches and alloy wheel repairs. Magic does not cater for accident repair or panel replacement as this work is done under the manufacturer approved programmes at MG Cannon. Magic was created for three reasons; for the customers to have a fast, convenient option for minor cosmetic damage, for our retailer partners to have the option for a complete solution from us rather than use a separate smart repair provider of differing quality, and for us to focus the MG Cannon site on what they are best at. The sites are growing in size and number and have become an important part of our business.

Finally, how do you see the industry in five- and ten-years’ time? Increasingly more exciting, faster and professional. In five years’, time, I think the real effects of technology will have just started to become clear in terms of the ‘new norms’ reducing the customer claim journey, re-engaging the customer and providing an all-round professional industry experience.  In 10 years’, time I think we will see tools and processes we used to use as something more akin to a museum than a bodyshop because the industry will have changed so much. No one really knows what it will look like in 10 years’ time, but it will be different. Very different. There are exciting times ahead, but it will require energy to lead the strategy, staff a new team capability, and maintain a culture of commitment to change and to provide for sustained reinvestment to fund it.  

For FREE professional advice or more information, speak to our specialists at your local MG Cannon centre today, or visit mgcannon.com

MG Cannon Dorchester Tel: 01305 755455                                                                   MG Cannon Gloucester Tel: 01452 412700

MG Cannon Plymouth Tel: 01752 898632                                                                     MG Cannon Salisbury Tel: 01722 334582          

MG Cannon Swindon T/A Fix Auto Swindon North Tel: 01793 619578                    MG Cannon Westbury Tel: 01373 855290




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