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The lion’s share

By / 6 years ago / Interview / No Comments

The new management at the head of Peugeot in the UK is convinced that the firm can raise itself above the other volume brands and carve itself a spot just below the premium brands.

In other words, a position level with Volkswagen. At a recent unveiling of the heavily revised 508 in London, new managing director Stéphane Le Guevel said that his ambition was for company car drivers and fleet managers to appreciate the premium feel of the new range of cars – the youngest for some years in the firm’s existence, and also to push the transaction price of its products towards that of Volkswagen.

Of course, it’s relatively easy to come up with such grand schemes on paper, and plenty of premium brands have had such dreams over the past decade as the German marques dominate, but in reality somebody will have to enact it. That job falls to fleet director Martin Gurney.

He took over from Phil Robson late last year, and the timing would seem to be propitious, coming as it did just as the much-lauded 308 was revealed, which was then followed by its European Car of the Year award.

With a revised 508, new Boxer and 108 this year as well, Gurney has the tools at his disposal, he reckons, but it is 308 that will really create the bulk of the opportunities.

‘308 is ahead of plan so we’re really encouraged with it,’ he says. ‘We’ve been realistic about how our sales will accelerate though. We want to develop in what we call the green channels – the non-forced channels in other words – and of course they tend to be organic in nature, which means relying on people choosing the product rather than forcing it. That will take time.’

A number of actions have seen a big change in vehicle mix in the first part of the year. Overall sales were down against a market on the rise, but Gurney says there was a drop in “red channels” – so rental and manufacturer registrations – with an increase in green.

Gurney explains: ‘We’re budgeting to sell 15,500 new 308 in fleet in the first year and only a tiny proportion is daily rental. In the first year we aim to do about 600 daily rental units, whereas we did 6,000 of the old car, so although overall sales figures may be down, we are in fact hugely up in green fleet channels. And that’s where our main growth will come from this year.

‘Our strategy is getting as many people as we can in the car, so we invested heavily in our demo fleet, giving my team the best chance to get in front of customers and prospects.’

The ambition to push transaction prices closer to Volkswagen, and specifically the Golf, will have been helped by much stronger residual value predictions for the 308 over the old car, by as much as £1,500 per unit over three years.

When Gurney first took over, he travelled around the country with his sales team, spending time with customers and key accounts.

‘One of the things that I found was that 308 was getting an incredibly positive response, and it’s definitely changing hearts and minds about Peugeot. We have a strong, loyal customer base already, and we have a number who list our cars but do less volume, and then of course those fleets that we are not on. So there are some short-term improvements we can make in the first two areas, and then there’s the longer-term challenge with the third, working with those fleet mangers to get 308 and 308 SW listed and getting people the opportunity to try and choose our cars.

‘In the current economic climate, with companies looking to grow, we’ve taken the conscious decision to not separate our car and van product offerings so when one of my account managers goes into a business they are talking about the whole product range. We do have this relatively unique opportunity to offer something to everybody.’

SMEs is another area that Peugeot is looking to compete more strongly in, and Gurney says that in the past the firm has been less aggressive in targeting these businesses.

He adds: ‘We’ve made some significant changes to the way our contract hire offering in dealers work to make it more accessible, and the fact it is backed by our own bank and not a white label product should give fleets confidence. We’re one of the few that can offer cars, vans and finance – either contract hire or finance lease – in one package if your business is expanding, when the last thing you need to be dealing with is all those issues.’

New cars and a new strategy – certainly Le Guevel and Gurney have some grand ambitions and, at last, Peugeot may have the product to fulfill it.

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Steve Moody

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