With the purchase of another 42 concessions from the Antwerp Moorkens family, the Dutch group Van Mossel has crowned itself in record time as the second largest car salesman in Belgium.
For Eric Berkhof, the ambitious owner and CEO of the Van Mossel group, the largest takeover in his career means the definitive breakthrough in Belgium. Berkhof landed in Belgium in 2018 thanks to the acquisition of the Alcopa subsidiaries Bruyninx and GMAN. Since then he took over a series of garages in Belgium from Peugeot and Mercedes, among others. With the addition of Alcopa subsidiaries Fidenco and Autopolis, best known as Ford dealers, Berkhof expands its Belgian empire to 68 dealerships of more than 20 different car brands.
Van Mossel doubles its annual sales volume in Belgium to 23,500 new cars, giving the company a 5 percent market share. Eric Berkhof thus becomes the second largest car dealer in the country, after the listed holding company D’Ieteren, which controls all VW garages on the lucrative Antwerp-Brussels axis. But the hunger of the Dutch, who mainly owns garages in Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Limburg, has not yet been satisfied. ‘My goal is to have a dealership in every Flemish city,’ says Berkhof.
Alcopa and Van Mossel remain silent about the deal’s price, which the Belgian competition authorities have yet to approve. But it is clear that Berkhof, who appears on the list of the 500 richest Dutch people, has deep pockets. The self-made man started his career as an intern in a Volkswagen garage in Waalwijk, which he took over in 1988. Three decades later, Berkhof expanded this small business into a giant with more than 200 garages and a turnover of 2.5 billion euros.
Alcopa sees Van Mossel as the ideal buyer for its garages. ‘After the sale two years ago, I started talking to our people in the garages,’ says Moorkens. ‘They told me that Van Mossel handled things better than I did. In the future, there will be winners and losers in the auto sector. Our business is not over, but will change a lot in the coming years. Many dealers will disappear. Van Mossel will certainly be a winner. ‘
The Dutch company makes good use of its scale. Van Mossel sells both new and second-hand cars of more than 20 different brands, but also offers maintenance and leasing. The group bundles all common services, such as IT, marketing and HR, in the Antwerp head office, so that the staff in the showrooms only have to deal with customers.
For example, Van Mossel instructs its employees to contact all buyers of a new car after delivery to ask whether they are satisfied. CEO Berkhof places his personal mobile number on the company website. ‘Customers can always call me,’ he says. Van Mossel promises every Belgian an answer to his e-mail within 20 minutes from next year. “It couldn’t be that someone asks for a test drive and has to wait 36 hours for a response?”
Surely it is not possible that someone asks for a test drive and has to wait 36 hours for a response?
Because of this approach, Van Mossel says he has barely suffered from the corona crisis, causing Belgian car sales this year to drop by a quarter. Opel sales are down 43 percent this year, but only 7 percent in our garages. This year our return will be 15 percent higher than in 2019 ‘, it sounds.
- Founded: in 1937 by Albert and Constance Moorkens
- CEOs: grandsons Axel Moorkens and Damien Heymans
- Importer of the Asian car brands Hyundai, Suzuki, Isuzu, SsangYong and MG
- Also active in: car auctions (AlcopaAuction), parts for motorcycles (Bihr), buses (CBM), boats (Orange Marine), doors (Thys), window films (Solar Screen), online pharmacy (Viata) and car wash installations (Lavance)
- Turnover: 1.6 billion euros (2019)
- Gross profit (EBITDA): 89 million euros
- Number of employees: 2,000
- Founded: 1949, acquired by Eric Berkhof in 1988
- Head office: Waalwijk
- Activity: last year traded 95,000 new and used cars in more than 200 locations in Belgium and the Netherlands
- Includes the Belgian lease brands J&T Autolease, DirectLease and Westlease
- Turnover: 2.26 billion euros (2019)
- Gross profit (EBITDA): 87 million euros
- Number of employees: 3,100
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