Vauxhall’s fresh approach
A growing number of car manufacturers talk about the importance of delivering top quality fleet services through their dealer networks. Fortunately, some are even backing their words with deeds.
Take Vauxhall. You’d think the UK’s second biggest selling car brand would have most bases covered. Not so. Less than 18 months ago, Tim Tozer joined as the brand’s new CEO and chairman. He was an unusual appointment as, contrary to tradition, he was not from the General Motors family. However, he had an impressive track record having led Mazda and Mondial in the UK and Mitsubishi in Europe. More recently he had headed up AutoBinck, the Dutch-based car distributor and retailer that operates across central Europe.
As an outsider, with experience in both the OEM and retailer camps, Tozer’s able to take a clean sheet approach to Vauxhall. The first visible external sign of his new tenure was the ending of the Lifetime Warranty package. This had been introduced to grow retail sales but, despite its name, was restricted to the first owners of new cars. It had also become pretty much redundant as a result of the recent boom in Personal Contract Purchase plans which have changed the typical ownership profile of many new cars to just three years. It was a decision that needed making and one that would have been welcomed by dealers who were obliged to make a contribution to the scheme’s funding.
He’s also moved to cut down the model complexity of product line-ups. The process started with the new generation Corsa and will be rolled out to the all-new Viva as well as the Insignia, Cascada and next generation Astra. However, the Adam will remain the exception with its bewildering array of bespoke options as befitting customer demands in that particular sector.
Tozer has also turned his attention to the needs of small fleets and how they are supplied and supported by the carmaker’s vast national dealer network. Supporting his ambition to lead the “mainstream true fleet market,” Vauxhall is now actively targeting smaller fleets operating 25-99 cars and vans with a range of additional support through its dealer network.
His thinking is straightforward yet refreshing.
Refocus dealers to address the specific wants and needs of SMEs – which are, after all, different to retail customers – with clear processes delivered in a uniform manner across the network.
In conjunction with this, Vauxhall’s internal fleet operations have been tasked to deliver the same levels of customer care expected by the big fleets to their smaller counterparts. None of this is ground breaking stuff but not all carmakers do it well. Clearly a shortcoming was identified and has now been addressed.
“We have employed a new team of 12 area managers to concentrate on sub-100 fleets. We have a really great fleet operation with some brilliant relationships and we have a very strong position in the market, but we were stretched a bit thinly, particularly in those smaller fleet areas,” said Tozer.
According to Tozer, the job of this field team is to work closely with SMEs to build relationships and then supply and service vehicles through Vauxhall dealers.
“The focus of that team is to knock on doors and work through the dealers.”
Supporting this initiative, Vauxhall has also updated its website with a number of new features designed specifically for SMEs to help them drive down costs. A new Fleet Knowledge area offers a range of videos and articles to help fleet decision-makers better understand the key metrics to look out for when choosing vehicles for their fleet. This includes a look at whole life costs, Benefit-in-Kind taxation and P11D values.
The strategy is being managed by James Taylor, Vauxhall’s fleet sales director, who is confident the brand has an opportunity to raise its game and deliver higher levels of customer care to many different types of small businesses.
“We know that these businesses have slightly different requirements than larger, more structured fleets and we really want to show that we can offer them the right flexibility in terms of their overall fleet package,” he said.
“We truly believe that supporting these businesses directly with the manufacturer is the best way forward as we can integrate them into all the initiatives and programmes we offer. In turn, we hope to reap the rewards of this investment as part of our overall fleet strategy.”
Vauxhall’s move is well judged and if successful should help the brand to significantly build its portfolio of SME customers, many of whom will no doubt appreciate this more customer centric and local approach to how their fleet vehicles are supplied, maintained and serviced.