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Making the right connections

Peugeot plans to significantly grow its SME business with the rollout of dealer-based initiatives for local car and van customers. Curtis Hutchinson reports.

Curtis Hutchinson

Curtis Hutchinson

Peugeot is on a roll. The brand is back in the sweet spot of the new car market with high demand for its award-winning 2008, 3008 and 5008 crossovers, ahead of this autumn’s introduction of the already well-received 508, a model it is confident will breathe life into the dormant D-segment.

Meanwhile its van sales go from strength to strength with the all-new Expert helping to make Peugeot the third best selling CV brand ahead of a further boost in September when the Rifter replaces the Tepee.

This year the PSA brand has a clear focus on building its fleet business and that comes right from the top.

In a recent interview with Automotive News Europe, Jean-Philippe Imparato, the brand’s global CEO, outlined Peugeot’s ambitious aspirations in fleet, which could see a return to the heady days of the 1990s and noughties when the brand jostled with Ford and Vauxhall (now, of course, its sister brand) for market share.

“I have two targets for Peugeot in Europe this year. The first is that in each country, I want the market share for sales to business fleets to be above our passenger-car market share by two percentage points,” he said.

His other target is increasing van sales.

“Second, last year we had a really good year in LCVs, but we can target 10% more, I would say one point more market share.”

These are bold objectives but indicative of Peugeot’s new-found confidence. While it continues to make headway in the large fleet sector, it expects to make significant ground in the SME market where it can utilise the local knowledge of its 210-strong dealer network.

Peugeot’s head of business sales, Louise Neilson, believes SMEs offer a real growth opportunity for the brand and maintains that confidence amongst small businesses is high despite ongoing economic and political uncertainties.

“We’re not seeing a downturn as a result of Brexit. We’re having a lot of really positive meetings with SMEs; confidence certainly seems to be there which is an encouraging sign,” she said.

Peugeot is ideally placed to grow its SME business with plenty of new product either in the showroom or in the pipeline across both car and LCV line-ups.

“Dealers tell me they are seeing more owners of SMEs than ever before looking at our car range, changing from other brands into the 3008 and 5008 and then looking at vans for their businesses; these owners are driving change for us.”

Potentially the brand has a lot to lose in the ongoing demonisation of diesel, but as an early adopter of electric vehicles it also has much to offer fleets in terms of plug-ins and hybrids.

The forthcoming 508, which will be sold primarily into the business market, should see the plug-in hybrid version accounting for a third of sales if the brand can prove to fleets the total cost of ownership is comparable with a diesel.

This future-proofing makes sense in the current climate. If a business has ruled out diesel then there is the potential to open conversations about petrol, hybrid or EV alternatives.

According to Neilson, this makes Peugeot ideally positioned to demonstrate its agility in terms of being a fleet mobility supplier. This was shown last year when Royal Mail bought 100 Partner Electric vans for delivery services, the first major fleet order for the newly launched CV.

A major part of the Royal Mail sourcing criteria acknowledged a need to reduce its carbon footprint with fleet director Paul Gatti citing a desire to be “on the front-foot for future changes in emissions legislation.”

With the high visibility of Royal Mail and local authorities running Peugeot’s EVs, Neilson expects this to generate interest amongst SMEs.

This will be helped by more of Peugeot’s 60 Business Centres becoming EV specialists; not just those based in metropolitan areas, with fully trained sales and aftersales staff as well as charging points. Furthermore, dealers outside of the Business Centre network are also being encouraged to grow their SME business.

“We’re working with the whole network to make sure they can all engage with SME customers. We’re keen for SMEs to have a relationship with their local Peugeot dealer for sales and servicing; it’s about the whole network being engaged.”

Peugeot’s investment has seen the recent introduction of Live Chat on its websites specifically for SME owners who can have questions answered at any time by a trained business specialist.

Peugeot dealers are also actively offering SMEs PSA’s Free2Move leasing and mobility solutions. This service is effectively a group-wide umbrella for the old Peugeot Contract Hire and Citroen Contract Motoring brands but with added fleet management tools including the newly launched Connect Fleet service which integrates with vehicle telematics and can be used across cars and vans.

“I see connected services as another way for us to add value to SME businesses as they’ll be able to save money through better real-time fleet management.”

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