Divisional overviews

Steve Keys

Steve Keys
Chief executive

Trading profit
grew by 4.1%
Revenue growth
of 2.1%
McCarthy’s new vehicle
sales outperformed
Bidvest Car Rental had a
difficult year
Salient features

Salient features

  • Despite the market being restrained in the luxury segment, McCarthy's new vehicle sales outperformed. Overall, it sold 8.8% more new vehicles (industry dealer sales grew 1.8%).
  • 5.3% fewer used vehicles were sold. The used vehicle segment softened in the latter part of the financial year as the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) introduced aggressive new vehicle incentives.
  • This year's result can be characterised by the significant pressure in the luxury vehicle segment, in which McCarthy has a prominent market share, as well as reduced parts activity. This was, to some degree, neutralised by good service revenues, a pleasing fleet business, solid activity in the volume brands and the benefit from closing non-performing dealers in the previous year. Margins were, however, under pressure across the board.
  • Bidvest Car Rental's revenue, cost control and fleet management were disappointing, resulting in a significant decline in trading profit, which has led to a detailed review of the business model.

Strategic focus

There is a continued focus on the absorption model at retail level to ensure an appropriate mix is achieved. Benchmarking will continue to be used to drive improved performance throughout the business. Benchmarking data is used in cross-franchise dealer meetings to improve best practice in the business. There is considerable attention on achieving a more balanced business mix across the division, specifically by increasing aftersales contributions.

At Bidvest Car Rental, the immediate key, strategic, focus areas include the successful introduction and implementation of technology systems for a more stable business environment, a review of certain contracts as well as reducing the cost base and enhancing efficiencies to improve profitability.


McCarthy has fared exceptionally well over the past year with specific emphasis being placed on the increased levels of diversity at senior and top management levels.

Overall, 71% of new appointments across all levels were black. The biggest challenge is, however, procurement from the OEM's who still have very poor ratings. Sourcing suitable SMMEs is a priority. Enterprise and Supplier development as well as SED are on track. Bidvest Car Rental fared well in most elements across the B-BBEE scorecard.


The challenges facing the South African economy are certainly expected to continue into the new financial year, and a prediction for the new passenger car market, specifically, has become difficult.

All efforts are, however, being focused on cost and efficiency control, while innovate new offerings in marketing, after sales support, insurances and technological updates are being considered and implemented wherever necessary.

Burchmores is experiencing an overall reduction in bank volumes, and the business is being adapted to meet this challenge.

Our story

Bidvest McCarthy Group – over 100 years and still going strong

Bidvest McCarthy Motor Group's origins can be traced back to 1910, when an enterprising English immigrant, Gilbert Rodway opened a bicycle shop in Durban.

Justin McCarthy joined Fisher, Simmons & Rodway as an accounts clerk in 1921

McCarthy Rodway Limited was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1936, and in Johannesburg in 1937

In 1966 McCarthy acquired a substantial portion of Atkinson-Oates

Over the years McCarthy has undergone major changes and restructuring in line with its single-minded focus on motor retailing

He'd seen the growing move to bicycles for personal transport in his home country and wanted to do the same in South Africa – and so Coventry & Birmingham Motor & Cycle Company was born. Shortly after the first world war, Rodway merged his business with a dealership called Fisher & Simmons, subsequently acquiring the Auburn car franchise. The company changed its name to Fisher, Simmons & Rodway and in 1923 it expanded its product offering by adding the popular Dodge brand.

In the meantime, a young man called Justin McCarthy joined the company as an accounts clerk in 1921. He was excited about the developing motor trade and saw it as a much brighter career prospect than banking, where he'd started. His entrepreneurial acumen and a good head for figures saw McCarthy acquiring shares in the business. Rodway & McCarthy set about forming alliances with key international personalities such as Lord Nuffield, from whom they acquired the Morris franchise. As the business grew, McCarthy Rodway Limited was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1936, and in Johannesburg in 1937.

Strategically, the group decided to focus on automotive distribution, selling its motor assemblies' business in 1963 to Toyota South Africa. This move helped cement the relationship between Toyota and McCarthy, which has remained intact ever since. In 1966, McCarthy acquired a substantial portion of Atkinson-Oates, a national vehicle distributor and retailer, and one of McCarthy's main competitors. The remaining shares were acquired in 1975.

McCarthy has weathered many storms. This included an extreme recession driven by the global oil crisis that hit the country during 1976/77, reducing vehicle sales by 23%. Also, in 1977, the company's state-of-the-art computer room located within its Durban premises and housing the sophisticated (at the time) data processing department, was destroyed in a fire. Over the years McCarthy has undergone major changes and restructuring in line with its single-minded focus on motor retailing.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the company, now renamed McCarthy Group Limited, experienced extraordinary, growth. New franchises and brands were added, efficiencies were honed, and technology was upgraded substantially. Sales and turnover soared, while total assets and the number of employees increased substantially. However, in the late 1990's, economic and other challenges changed the course of McCarthy's history. It essentially led to Bidvest acquiring McCarthy on 1 January 2004, for R967 million.

Working closely with existing management, as well as an improving economy, it resulted in Bidvest introducing numerous interesting and unique concepts, which accelerated the expansion of the business into one of South Africa's largest and most eminent automotive retailers. It included financial services (later becoming part of Bidvest Financial Services), car rental as well as vehicle auctioneering. Today it boasts an annual trading profit of over R600 million, up three-fold since acquisition, with 26 brands of vehicles are sold out of a network of 83 dealerships.