What a year that was in 2016 and what a year we have to come in 2017.

thewesterngroup serenely sailed through the last 12 months while political storms raged further afield.

At home we saw some changes taking place in the PR community and some mega deals being brokered on the international stage which will play out over the next decade.

The ever tightening emissions legislation has seen certain car makers writing cheques for billions of euros and dollars and owners being compensated, but not in Britain of course, which many consider unjust and inappropriate. 

Through it all the UK Automotive industry and its dealer network has prospered and grown, defying so-called “experts” who were predicting a rapid slowdown.

Even the SMMT were wrong-footed in their game of politics, along with a number of car-makers who should have known better and are now having to eat some stale statistics along with humble pie. 

If some of those in the industry put as much effort into their PR operations as they have done into the politics of the last two years their companies would have had a lot less to worry about and far more to enjoy and talk-up in real terms.

Everyone knows being positive is more productive than a nagging negative. 

So, what do we have to look forward to as a group in 2017? Well, unbelievably, our annual Driving Day is just about six months away and we are already laying plans for the administration, content and structure of what all our industry friends tell us is “the best day of the year”. We hope you’ll support us and attend in record numbers with your very latest models, and bring along a few surprises as well. 

Now a surprise for you. I will be sorry to say farewell to our vice-chairman John Kendall, who is giving up working as an honest motoring journalist and who will be going over to the dark side.

The capable Mr Kendall, who has served as both chairman and vice-chairman of thewesterngroup, had an offer he couldn’t refuse to take on a major UK PR role for which he is eminently qualified through his diesel and delivery van reporting.

He has been a thoroughly honest and intelligent writer over three decades and a very keen supporter of thewesterngroup, so we will miss him, and I will miss his considered counsel, but know his future employers have made a wise choice. If only more motor manufacturers did the same, the industry would be a better place.

Somehow I think Mr Kendall might be the first to register for DD2017 on 7 June at Castle Combe. I hope you all follow.

His resignation from the group does mean we will have to hold a meeting very soon to appoint a successor until the annual general meeting in November and members will be getting a note on this in the next week or so. Please think how you might serve thewesterngroup, secure a proposer and seconder and let me or the honorary secretary know this week. 

If we don’t have nominations we will have to take some unusual steps under our constitution. 

Finally, I was saddened to hear of the death of our old-school writing colleague Brian Laban shortly before the end of December and the industry and writing world will be a less colourful place after his passing, so we extend our sympathy to his family.

I wish all members and colleagues a prosperous and productive 2017. 

Robin Roberts | Chairman WGMW

Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts

Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group. He’s been vice chairman or chairman for over ten years and oversees the annual Western Group PR Driving Day each summer assisted by the group committee and supported by group members.

He contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.

Robin specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.

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