Back in contention
Peugeot has sought to reinvent itself in recent years. Once a major volume player, up there behind Ford and Vauxhall, and one of the biggest fleet brands, the carmaker overreached itself in the UK by becoming too reliant on fast-churn daily rental business and subsequently spent time in the wilderness while it regrouped.
At the turn of the new millennium Peugeot enjoyed a market share of 8.5%. It now hovers just over the 5% mark. Despite this dip the UK is the brand's third biggest international market after France and China and is now enjoying a product led revival with a succession of desirable new generation models, with more waiting in the wings.
The latest generation 308 (so different that 309 might have been a more appropriate name) brings new levels of interior space and quality to a C-segment long dominated by the Focus and Golf. With its stylish good looks, engaging driving characteristics, high specifications, low emissions and aggressive pricing, Peugeot has every right to be confident that it can win over company car user-choosers.
Behind closed doors even Peugeot would probably admit that prior to the 3008 crossover, it had lost its mojo. The outgoing 308, launched in 2007, did its job but its dullness never threatened to set the sector on fire. Curiously the new model is closer in terms of DNA to the hugely successful 306 which could help win back company car drivers who left the brand.
Tim Zimmerman, the UK managing director of Peugeot, is confident the new 308 line-up will turn around the brand's fortunes by winning conquest business, as it has already achieved with the 208 and 2008, and grow its share of both the fleet and retail sectors.
‘With our new cars we are able to conquest business and with the new 308 we should be able to take business from other manufacturers whether they be German, Korean or others.’
Total sales will represent a third of all Peugeots sold in 2014 and are expected to track the prevailing trend in the C-segment with an even split between fleet and retail.
For Zimmerman it's all about growing market share within fleet without over heating the daily rental market.
‘We want to be in the true fleet market. We want to do our share of all the fleet segments, whether that be big fleets, small fleets or national daily rental.’
Zimmerman said an important part of its fleet appeal, for the brand's cars and vans, is to win and retain small local businesses through its dealer network. This is an area targeted for growth.
To prove the point this month Nick Crossley becomes the brand’s head of business sales, a newly created position with responsibility for improving sales of both cars and vans to businesses through the dealer network.
‘We are a good fleet manufacturer. We have a history of supplying fleet businesses and have an understanding and competence in fleet business. We've probably neglected, to an extent, local fleets which are always more difficult to get to as it involves wearing out your shoe leather.’
Peugeot has also addressed the needs of local firms by setting up a network of dealer-based accredited business centres, complete with fleet specialists. It is also more actively promoting its in-house funding provision through Peugeot Contract Hire.
‘We want to get the focus back to local businesses. We can negotiate the major national fleets and inevitably the dealer will deliver those vehicles and service them but we cannot negotiate at local fleet level, that is clearly a dealer's responsibility and that is where they have their biggest added value opportunity. We feel with our range of cars and vans we can get more into that market and we want to encourage the network to invest in it.’
Indeed this year Peugeot expects to have better supply of its van ranges, a market in which it performs strongly with a market share of around 8%, to cater for growing demand from businesses emerging from the recession.
‘We have an opportunity with vans that within the Peugeot network we probably haven't been grasping as much as we could. Because we have been supplying some large national companies, in some cases we have lacked supply for smaller local businesses and therefore lost a little focus. We will be focusing more on them in 2014, we'll have better supply and will be attacking the small business market a lot stronger than we have been.
‘Small businesses are the holy grail of the sales environment and we need to have a bigger focus on that.’
Peugeot is back in contention with a clearly defined new focus.