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Curtis Hutchinson: Hyundai’s fleet vision

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Curtis Hutchinson, motor industry guru, looks at how the erstwhile retail brand’s focus has changed to the business sector and the role played by electrification.

Curtis Hutchinson

You would be forgiven for thinking that Hyundai was primarily a retail brand. It has, after all, built its reputation on an ever-increasing range of models, keen pricing and the backing of a customer-friendly five-year warranty.

Yet Hyundai has been active in fleet for over two decades, maintaining a relatively low-level presence as an alternative to the established players, with generously specified cars supported by award-winning fleet aftersales processes across its dealer network.

Last year the brand reassessed its fleet proposition in a move which saw business sales account for 56% of its total registrations, equating to a new record of 50,571 units. Its hero car was the Tucson, accounting for 19,919 of those sales. From this position of strength Hyundai is looking to further develop its fleet business.

Heading up this new focus is director of fleet Michael Stewart. He joined the business in January 2018 from Nissan where he was head of leasing and specialist fleet sales, having previously looked after corporate sales planning and operations. Prior to this he managed Mazda’s fleet marketing, having joined the sector in 2003 as Vauxhall’s rental marketing manager.

“My brief when I joined was to relaunch the Hyundai fleet proposition. We already had strong fleet elements in the brand but we needed a more forward-thinking strategy linked to the new product we’re seeing coming through. What you’ll see from us now is a more sustainable and smart growth strategy in fleet,” says Stewart.

Working alongside him is Tim White, appointed national fleet sales manager last November after two decades at Vauxhall, most recently as national fleet sales manager.

Future business sales will more closely mirror the 52:48 fleet/retail split of the wider market. Consequently, fleet volumes are likely to be lower this year but with reduced short-cycle rental volumes and increases in true fleet. This should provide a stronger base for the brand to grow its long-term fleet business as it maximises on the opportunities afforded by new models.

Stewart’s fleet strategy is based around the concept of “smart growth” whereby the significantly expanded fleet team, supported by an investment in a new back-office infrastructure, is able to steadily build its true fleet book, talk to more end-user customers, especially SMEs, and engage with funders.

“We can grow steadily through acquiring a strong order bank, especially through our SUV and transitional product line-up; we don’t have to buy chunks of volume. Whatever we do has to be sustainable and smart,” he says.

Pivotal to Hyundai’s ambitious fleet plans will be the support and services offered by its 163-strong dealer network. The brand’s ambitious new National Fleet Centre Programme has seen the formation of 15 large fleet centres around the country, each with a dedicated Hyundai fleet infrastructure, national fleet delivery capability and pre-delivery inspection capacity for over 1,000 vehicles each. Each will also have the capacity to facilitate a minimum of 500 fleet registrations, hinting at Hyundai’s long-term aspiration for its fleet business.

In time these fleet centres will provide support to the rest of the network, which Stewart describes as “fleet and business ready”, ensuring every Hyundai dealer will have services in place to grow and support local SME business.

In pursuit of delivering the best possible experience for customers, Hyundai has introduced a new Fleet Aftersales Charter and a dedicated fleet support line. With transparent pricing and processes, the charter sets out a commitment to reduce cost of ownership for fleets, including hourly labour rates capped at £60 (+VAT), a discount on MOT costs and a reduction on parts and accessories.

The charter also guarantees a service appointment within 48 hours and offers a Fleet Response service, which sets a target of 60 minutes to diagnose an issue, or provide alternative onward transport.

Meanwhile, electrification is playing a key role in Hyundai’s fleet proposition. It is the only global carmaker offering hybrid, PHEV, EV and fuel cell models and this is opening corporate doors previously shut. By 2020 Hyundai says 75% of all models sold in Europe will have an electrified version.

“Electrification is now incredibly high on fleet agendas, so much so that there is more appetite, attention and demand than there is supply from manufacturers across the board. We are talking to major companies, the public sector and SMEs, everyone’s interested in electric vehicles.

“With hydrogen we have good access to Nexo product and can offer a real proposition which means we are winning business where others can’t supply.

“Hyundai is a fleet brand. We are ready, capable and able to meet the needs of the fleet market in a sustainable way,” finishes Stewart.

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