Interview: Neil Wilson, Ford of Britain fleet director
Neil Wilson, Ford of Britain fleet director, talks to Martyn Collins about the firm’s new EV and its impact on the fleet market.
As Ford’s first mass-market fully electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E is a very new area of business. What do you anticipate the sales mix to be between fleet and retail?
“So currently, year-to-date we’re kind of close to 50/50 right now. But to be honest, that’s partly because our retail dealers have been locked down. A lot of our retail customers have been waiting for dealers to open for business. I think, longer term, I’m expecting it to be 75/25 retail to fleet.
“This could change depending on market dynamics. Clearly within fleet, the low Benefit-in-Kind is really making a dramatic increase to the EV take-up in the fleet market. Actually, electrification in fleet is accelerating faster than retail so far. I think retail will catch up, so from a Ford perspective, I think 70/30 retail to fleet is where we broadly will be and we’re well on track to do that.”
What is the interest and order bank for Mach-E?
“The first cars arrived back in April. Our order bank is exceeding our expectations, quite frankly. The take-up from fleets across the board has been really strong and encouraging, and we’re absolutely delighted. From a Ford perspective, we’re now talking to customers we haven’t spoken to for quite some time – in different sectors, where we haven’t had as much success, which have been more driven, by pharmaceutical industries, for example. We’re seeing that across the board, from a wide range of new customers. We can supply within our parameters this year, and we’re super-excited and encouraged by the feedback we’ve had from customers and press. Thank you too for the ‘One to Watch award’ from this year’s Great British Fleet Awards.
“I’ve actually got a demo Mach-E at the moment. It’s great to drive, I think the combination of the styling, plus the range is fantastic. The charging network is improving all the time, the Braintree Gridserve facility being a good example. I think a lot of lead customers have, over the last few months, taken a long hard look at EVs and changed their policies. I think they’re seeing a movement back into company car and salary sacrifice schemes. Whereas before cash allowances were starting to creep up. So, all those factors, combined with the kind of product that the Mach-E is, have integrated well.”
You mentioned the Mustang Mach-E is attracting different fleet customers – so is this a great opportunity for Ford to conquest, then?
“I think Mach-E is a game-changing product, and shows you how committed we are to the EV strategy. This is our first full-production electric vehicle and we’ve made announcements that by the middle of 2026 all of our vehicle line-up will be zero-emissions capable. Then, by 2030 we will be full EV across the board.
“So, what Mach-E demonstrates is that we can create exciting products that have EV capability – but still have the great driving dynamics expected of a Ford. Plus the practicality our customers also need on a day-to-day basis.”
There is a choice of front- or four-wheel drive. Which do you expect to be the most popular combination for fleet?
“So far, the mix has been 50% rear-wheel drive Standard Range and the rest is the four-wheel drive Extended Range version. Different fleets and different drivers are choosing the right products for them really. Clearly Mach-E is very well priced in the market, the RV and SMR figures are very strong, so the rear-wheel drive versions are very attractive to a lot of customers. The Standard Range is really good too, but some customers clearly would like the advantage of the Extended Range, and some of those are choosing that, and also the all-wheel drive with its quicker acceleration – which some people really value too.
“The base vehicle is very quick, but the all-wheel drive is even quicker. So, depending on which kind of customer we have, they’re making different choices, but broadly speaking the Standard Range seems to be most popular so far. But it’s early days.”
Are you finding current Ford fleet drivers are making the move into Mach-E too?
“Absolutely. To be honest, whether it’s fleet or retail, we’re seeing an increased number of customers who really understand the benefits that EV technology gives. In terms of the natural accessibility of those vehicles, in terms of the range anxiety challenges that have been historically associated with EVs – I think Mach-E is a great example where actually the range of the vehicle is perfectly adequate for day-to-day use.
“But also, the actual running costs of these vehicles are very attractive versus petrol and diesel. So, across the board, we are seeing customers migrating from other Ford models to Mach-E and we anticipate that continuing over the coming years.”
What plans have you got in place to get the Mustang Mach-E in front of key customers, getting it on to lists and out on the road?
“We’ve already got a range of fleet demos which arrived in January. They’re now being rolled out to our key fleet customers. We will continue that over the next couple of months. We’ve also had Mach-E launch events planned, where we’re actually bringing customers and giving them a full demonstration of the car. Quite frankly, we would probably have done that earlier but Covid has restricted our ability to get people involved.
“I think the interesting thing, from a fleet perspective, is that we’ve got people placing orders on the basis they love the attractive monthly payments – including SMR. And they love the range. They’re actually making the choice that this is the car for them – despite not being able to drive it. Which is a testament to how attractive the Mach-E is in the market; it’s really encouraging. Retail customers have probably been more cautious, as they perhaps want to drive the car more. Certainly, we’re seeing a great order take already, which can only accelerate as we get these cars out into the industry.”
We’ve seen a massive growth in the sale of EV fleet thanks to BiK changes last year, which seem to have been sped up thanks to Covid. Are you putting anything in place to help with the journey for fleets looking to make the move to electric?
“We’re getting a lot of questions – not just about cars, but commercial vehicles – asking how electric vehicles could work in future fleets. Some of those questions revolve around the type of infrastructure that companies mainly require in their own facilities, but also home charging solutions for their drivers.
“We at Ford are able to provide home charging solutions throughout the network for our customers. We are then helping in terms of consultation with some customers about what chargers they may want to put in their facility.
“A lot of customers are pretty advanced in terms of their own charging facilities but, where possible and where required, we are there to help, working with them to see what the best solutions could be for them and their drivers.”