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Peugeot is rolling out a new programme to show fleet customers its dealer network is more than capable of looking after their van needs. Curtis Hutchinson, editor of Motor Trader, reports.

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Curtis Hutchinson.

Things are changing at Peugeot. Since the arrival of David Peel as managing director last year, the brand’s UK operations seems to have adopted a new vigour as it moves to get its UK volumes back up to where they once were.

Peel is a Peugeot man through and through but comes from the retailing side of the business as the former boss of the brand’s Robins & Day dealer group and more recently the combined PSA Peugeot Citroën Retail Group.

This has seen the brand recently move into online new car sales, launch an internet approved used car service and overhaul the way it distributes parts across the country.

It has also rethought the way it runs its van business and is keen to be recognised as a major player in the light commercial sector with its sights set on addressing the needs of small to large businesses through its dealer network.

The programme is being led by Louise Nielsen, Peugeot’s head of business sales, who, like Peel, also joined from the PSA Peugeot Citroën dealer group, with a brief to refocus and grow the brand’s commercial operations.

Pivotal to getting closer to local fleets was the expansion of its business centre network. She joined in January when the brand had just 50 business centres and has already grown it to 70 sites giving it the scalable coverage it needs to start getting in front of more fleet managers.

That number will grow from next year but in the meantime Nielsen is making sure each centre establishes itself in the local community with designated van specialists undergoing training before engaging with local businesses.

The newly appointed business centres are following a structured programme aimed at getting them up and running as efficiently as possible, although Nielsen acknowledges this is not a fast process.

“Working in the dealership environment I know this will take time. It takes 12-18 months for a business centre to get really bedded into their local business market – it’s not as straightforward as retail.

“Van customers also need a different level of knowledge from a dealer as there’s different tax issues and different carrying abilities; it’s a completely different way of using vehicles and it does take time to address this.

“We pick the key spots geographically and then say we’ll support the dealer in the first year. We’ve had a massive take-up but it has to have the hearts and minds of the dealer staff to make it work. They’ve all come to us, rather than us going to them. The key is they’ve seen the opportunity with B2B.”

The business centres specialise in 1-49 vehicle fleets with Peugeot expecting interest from both existing and new customers.

“If someone is looking at a van then chances are they have a car on the fleet as well, having our expanded range of cars now gives us a very strong business proposition.”

The business centres will also be expected to deliver a compelling servicing proposition to keep vehicle downtime to a minimum and that means dedicated ramps and flexible approach to servicing hours.

“Business centres don’t have to offer an out of hours service but they will extend their hours for customers who want it; they will accommodate them. Dealers are flexible; they tend to start early for customers who want to come in, have a coffee and wait. Often their vehicles are racked out to their requirement s so they want it back as soon as possible.”

In tandem with this programme, non-business centres are also being encouraged to grow their local fleet business with every dealer in the Peugeot network expected to display at least one van as a visual reminder that they too can serve the light commercial needs of customers.

“We have a new Van Essentials initiative that we’re rolling out this year so if a business customer comes into a non business centre then we want them to be able to talk to someone in the showroom; 93% of our whole network now sells vans.”

Central to this part of the programme is having dealer sales staff who can talk with authority to any business customers, although, unlike business centres, they will not be expected to prospect for new customers.

“Non business centres will need to have one or two people in the showroom who will understand how to provide a quotation if a business customer wants finance. We need to be able to show that everyone is welcome and when they come into a showroom they’ll be looked after.

“A nominated person in a non business centre will be trained from product and tax perspectives and will be able to provide finance quotations as well. These dealers will not be going out to visit businesses but they will be able to speak to a business customer professionally when they come into the showroom.”

Peugeot’s new approach to selling vans is well thought out and could resonate with small businesses looking for a local supplier who can satisfy their car and van needs.

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Curtis Hutchinson

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