Q&A: Graeme Jenkins, Suzuki
Appointed in January, Suzuki’s new head of fleet, Graeme Jenkins, is tasked with doubling the size of the brand’s corporate sales in the UK. And it’s all about playing to its strengths, he tells Alex Grant.
How did Suzuki perform during 2016, and what contribution did fleet make? Where do you want to be by the end of 2017?
Last year we did just over 38,000 cars, so a record year for Suzuki. Of those around 5,000 were some form of fleet or business, including around 2,000 in Motability. The business requirement is for sales in fleet to go up to 7,500 units this year. Ultimately we need to get to 10,000 cars [in fleet], which will assist Suzuki getting to its goal of 50,000 cars [total in the UK] over the next couple of years.
Which products do you see being the big growth areas in fleet?
Suzuki is known for being the maker of some fantastic small cars that appeal heavily to the retail market. For the first time in our history we’ve got four or five vehicles suitable for fleet; whether that’s the new Ignis, which will have appeal in the public sector, the new Swift which arrives in May, S-Cross and Vitara, or Baleno. All of those cars, in their own right, give us a lot of opportunity in segments Suzuki perhaps hasn’t tackled previously.
We have gone through a long process of deciding the right way to go to market to increase volumes, and we are investing heavily in getting the infrastructure right for the fleet team to go to market and help them reach the goals we want to achieve.
Whilst everyone knows the name Suzuki, what we need is for people to understand what it stands for. What is it about our products that differentiate us from the competition. We believe there will be natural traction once people are aware of these cars, not just the upfront cost but the total cost of ownership that we can demonstrate as well.
What are your priorities?
The first thing we’ll be doing is recruiting a contract hire and leasing manager. The projected growth [in fleet] will come from interacting with the major contract hire and leasing companies. That’s something that Suzuki hasn’t done historically, but the business has given significant resource to us being able to recruit that person. The process is under way so I would suggest ideally by the first of April or May.
We will have a total team size of around eight people when we’ve got everyone on board. Myself as head of fleet, a cost of ownership manager, a contract hire and leasing manager to work with the top 10 or so leasing companies, and a marketing specialist in Michelle who works on the fleet side. Part of entering the fleet market is to raise the awareness of the brand, attending events and letting the market know that Suzuki is serious about fleet.
We’re then backed up in the office with two fleet coordinators and two fleet administrators, so we have the resources, tools and products to make an impact in the fleet marketplace.
How big is your dealer network, and are you planning any fleet-specialist sites?
It’s about 150 [sites]. Natural evolution would suggest that we will have within our network a number of our partners who are keen to transact fleet business, and we will support them in those endeavours. So it is natural that we will progress to having some form of fleet dealerships.
Again, it’s not something you put together overnight. It’s something we have to look at very carefully, taking into account profitability of our dealer partners, then put in place a programme to help them transact fleet business profitably.
What we need to understand is how much interest there is. A number of dealers are very keen to meet up, we’ve already got meetings arranged with group of dealers who represent the entire network to discuss these things. We’ll then be having a fleet launch to coincide with new Swift, to let the industry know what we’re doing.