Haymarket reveals £50m automotive expansion and plan to create one digital platform for What Car?, Pistonheads and Autocar

Specialist publisher Haymarket Media Group is creating a new division for its automotive titles in what it says is a £50m expansion plan.

The move follows a “steady rise in audience traffic” for its Autocar, PistonHeads and What Car? magazines, which the group claims now attract 5.2m unique users per month across their free websites.

The creation of Haymarket Automotive is expected to bring with it more than one hundred new jobs, including between six and ten new editorial roles over the first year, Press Gazette understands.

Investment is set to boost “content, data and transaction information to serve the growing market for new and used cars in the UK” – a market said to be worth £85bn a year.

Haymarket said it estimates revenues at the new division could “increase fourfold within a few years”, with focus on its lead generation product that puts car dealerships alongside relevant online content.

Dealers pay £150 a month for the tenancy model, with 450 signed up so far according to Rachael Prasher, automotive group brand director at Haymarket who will become managing director of the new division.

“Our growth is around driving those dealer numbers up but also driving the number of leads generated up,” she told Press Gazette. “Our priority is digital – that’s where the growth in our audience has been and that’s where we will focus our efforts.”

Motoring magazines had been earmarked under Haymarket’s 2012 group growth plan but this new division represents the first major investment above and beyond pre-existing commitments.

“It’s recognition that the automotive market is evolving. It’s increasingly digitally focused,” said Prasher.

“This funding gives us the opportunity to fulfil the untapped potential of the What Car?, PistonHeads and Autocar brands, and sets us free to invest and innovate at a faster rate than ever.

“We have been working on this plan for more than a year, and Haymarket Group’s decision to meet our ambition with the funding required kick-starts the transformation of our business on every level.”

Kevin Costello, chief executive of Haymarket Media Group, said: “This new division represents the single largest organic investment in our company’s history, reflecting the exciting growth prospects for media-content and services for new and used cars.

“Since the launch of What Car? in 1974, Haymarket has built some of the most authoritative titles in the industry.

“We will offer even more valuable content, price-comparison and dealer information in an automotive media segment that Haymarket helped create.”

Total staffing in the consumer automotive division will rise to 240 in the medium term with further investment to be made in digital technology, consumer services and data management, according to a spokesperson.

They added: “The enlarged business will operate a single digital platform, enabling car-buyers and sellers to interact, use data and consume content produced by all Haymarket Automotive titles.”

Currently website users can register to save valuations and other elements of their search, but Prasher said the company was looking to increase benefits to boost subscription while keeping content free to access.

Prasher will be supported by an executive team including Paul Shoesmith as commercial cirector, Jim Holder as editorial director, Richard Harding as digital director and Mark Hodson as marketing and audience director.

Haymarket Automotive will be based in new offices close to the group’s west London headquarters.

In recent months publishers including Dennis Publishing and Time have established online automotive marketplaces – websites for the buying and selling of cars – as a source of new, higher-margin revenue.

Prasher said Haymarket did not intend to set up its own marketplace.

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