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Interview: Emma Wilkinson at Lloyd Kia Carlisle on Kia’s work with fleets

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Lloyd Kia Carlisle has become the latest dealership to gain Kia’s Business Specialist Dealer (BSD) status. Business development executive Emma Wilkinson speaks to Fleet World about what this means for fleets and how it can help businesses. 

Emma Wilkinson, business development executive at Lloyd Kia Carlisle

How important is Kia’s Business Specialist Dealer (BSD) status and what extra support does it mean for fleets?

Only 30 Kia dealerships across the UK have BSD status, so for Lloyd Kia to have obtained it after less than a year running the franchise is excellent news for our business customers.

Fleets are an increasingly important part of Kia’s sales mix, accounting for around 55% of annual sales, and we’ve seen a six-fold fleet sales increase from 2009 to 2019.

As the business specialist at Lloyd Kia, my task is to really get to grips with a company’s requirements. For example, this may involve incorporating electric vehicles into a fleet for the first time or going through company and driver taxation considerations, as well as funding options; either lease or outright purchase. In addition, I’m able to visit businesses and offer them hands-on experience with an unaccompanied business test drive for 24-48 hours – whatever they need – so that they can see the car in action for themselves; of course in a Covid-secure and contact-free manner.

What, if any, unique initiatives have been put in place?

I have undergone advanced business sales training to become a part of the national Kia BSD Programme, which gives me more expertise in this field than my retail colleagues. By understanding a fleet’s needs, marketing to them in the right language and explaining things that concern their drivers, such as BiK rates, really helps build customer rapport, relationship and trust – ultimately the core fundamentals for a thriving business relationship.

Extra demonstrators are available for businesses to test vehicles too, and there’s a dedicated budget to help us reach companies to inform them about our amazing range of vehicles from electric and hybrid, to plug-in hybrid, petrol and diesel. There really is a car to suit every job need within the Kia range and our aim is to get that message out to businesses.

How much support does Kia provide?

Kia offers the dealership support in terms of cash flow and finance to spend on building business relationships. As a BSD, the primary goal is to support businesses and get them into the right vehicles. There’s a dedicated support network available to us as a dealership from Kia too, which works in the region and with whom we enjoy a strong working relationship. It’s this kind of support that allows us to deliver on everything we promise.

Kia also provides a regional manager (Lorraine Fellowes, who was recently named ‘EV Champion’ at the 2020 GreenFleet Awards) as a point of contact for me with the manufacturer.  She keeps me up to date on Kia product, initiatives and shares best practices across the BSD network. In exchange for BSD status, Kia also provides financial support as part of the Kia BSD Programme to ensure that I can do this job properly and build up my own database of local business car users.

How do you prospect for new business?

Firstly, we dedicate a certain amount of budget to focus on businesses. The Kia Business centre assists with prospecting and making appointments with local businesses too, while I create new opportunities and customer contacts.

There’s no substitute for reaching out to people – business is done via genuine working relationships and an understanding of a business’ needs. Earning trust in both Lloyd Kia’s business services in addition to Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty-backed vehicles is most important. But our products also sell themselves as they’re industry leading and offer a wide-range of options to suit varied business requirements. Making sure companies know what we can offer is half the battle.

How is coronavirus affecting ways of prospecting and dealing with fleets?

The coronavirus impact differs between industries, size of fleet and regional locations. Some businesses are booming due to the pandemic, while others are unfortunately struggling. Whilst most SMEs have postponed orders to ensure they can weather the storm, many larger corporates are on purchasing-holds whilst they review policies and focus on lower emission vehicles. So in many ways despite the change in position for companies, the big change has been in switching to internet and phone communications instead of being able to do face-to-face meetings. We’re still very much in communication with businesses and finding out their needs.

What has the initial interest been, since becoming a BSD?

We’ve seen really high initial interest. We develop our own leads, as well as benefiting from those provided by Kia, which has led to conversations with businesses and fleets across the North East, and stretching to include public bodies in Scotland. Dumfries & Galloway Council ordered 12 Soul EV electric cars from us this year, which is indicative of appealing grants available from Transport Scotland at the moment to reduce carbon emissions from public sector fleets.

Our work with public sector NHS has also kept us really busy, as it has continued its requirement for vehicles throughout this year and despite the pandemic. And as soon as national restrictions lifted at the start of December, demonstrators went out to businesses and there’s pent-up demand for more.

Do you expect there to be any changes to fleet purchasing over the next few months? How do you think business customers will adapt to changes in mobility following coronavirus?

With the Scottish Government pushing for public sector fleets to reduce carbon and become at least 25% EV by next year, with no more ICE vehicles being bought into local authority fleets where possible, the aim in the Scottish region has been to help companies change from petrol and diesel to ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). Changes to company car taxation in April and cash allowances have made many fleets shift back to the company car and drivers are, in effect, enjoying an overnight pay rise by making the change to ULEVs.

The Scottish tax payer pays an additional 1% on a diesel company car than in England, so again there is a real focus on lower BiK percentages amongst company car drivers.

Kia offers both the e-Niro and Soul EV electric cars, as well as Plug-in Hybrid models of the Ceed Sportswagon, XCeed and Niro, all of which offer the lowest BiK percentages in the Kia range, while still offering a great choice of vehicles to suit various job needs. The complete electrified Niro range has seen particularly high demand this year.

And what has business been like since reopening in June?

As mentioned earlier, we’ve seen some pent-up demand from businesses as a result of deals put on hold during the first national lockdown and we have new interest from businesses looking to benefit from Kia’s electrified vehicle range – and in light of the 2030 announcement. Things are getting back on track and we’ve got a lot of interest from fleets generally. However, some companies we’ve spoken to have either decided to postpone new leases, whereas others have extended leases to the point that they’re now desperate to revisit options – so we’ve been helping companies with this too. Some larger firms are also taking the opportunity to relook at their plans and include EVs in them, since April tax changes and the 2030 announcement.

Has click-and-collect helped ensure things are better?

Kia really adapted quickly and click-and-collect services are available for all our customers. These services haven’t just been introduced for the short term either, they’re here to stay and online contracts and digital signatures make the whole process simple to complete with no physical interaction required. We’ve launched the Search, Connect, Collect: Always Available campaign that reiterates the message too. Customers can search online for a new or Used Approved Kia, Connect with a sales advisor via email, phone or Online Chat and then arrange to collect a vehicle from a Covid-secure location at the dealership. Fleets are still able to get access to the help and advice they need, as well as collect the actual vehicles. After all, for businesses their car is their livelihood and a work tool.

In terms of expectations when becoming a BSD during coronavirus, how are things going compared to predictions?

I’d say there’s been a refocus rather than any expectations being met, or not. The pandemic prevented us from providing clients with test drives, but it didn’t stop us talking: Kia has been very pragmatic by cancelling our demonstrator targets, which simply weren’t possible, and instead switched the focus to appointments that could be done over the phone or internet.

Do you think there will be or has been an increase in grey fleet as a result of the pandemic?

Company car taxation has seen a causal drift away from the company car towards cash allowances. In turn, this creates a grey fleet whereby the company and the fleet manager have less control over the vehicles employees drive. This puts the choice on the driver instead of the job need and could mean vehicles are not fit for their role. In addition, it means rigorous checks need to be in place for insurance and road-worthiness, while it can also lead to a negative company image!

This year in particular, the trend has reversed and there is a gravitation back to the company car to take advantage of tax benefits.

For example, if someone was driving a company car with a BiK of 24% and then changes their to an EV, such as the e-Niro or Soul EV which both have 0% BiK for the current tax year, they benefit from that BiK saving immediately and gain more of their salary in their pocket.

How are changes in funding types affecting business?

It really does depend on an accountant’s advice for a particular firm and that will vary from one to another, but contract hire helps us with cash flow, while an outright purchase of an EV sees a 100% write down allowance. However, what’s important to note is that Kia has a funding solution to suit all businesses.

As a dealership, are you seeing people and businesses turning more to cars (to avoid public transport, for example)?

Kia sold more used cars on its approved used programme than ever before, following the first national lockdown. This follows the trend of more second cars in households being used to avoid public transport.

Salary sacrifice is booming in popularity once again too, due to taxation savings, which are enhanced when choosing an EV.

How should SMEs contact the dealership during the pandemic?

With our latest message Search, Connect, Collect: Always Available, we’re contactable by all the usual methods. In most respects, it is business as usual – but Covid-secure to ensure the safety for our customers and staff – and the dealership should only be visited by appointment for the meantime. Our social media channels have also increased in popularity with customers, who use them to make contact with me.

 

Emma Wilkinson, Lloyd Kia Carlisle’s business development executive, can be contacted at the dealership – located at 9 Grearshill Road, Kingstown Industrial Estate, Carlisle, CA3 0ET – by phone on 01228 658821 / 07469 149323 or via the Lloyd Kia Business webpage: https://www.lloydmotorgroup.com/KIA/Business-Users

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