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Jaguar's fleet boss speaks

Date: 04 April 2007

It's been a struggle to get Jaguar to appreciate the value of fleet, but less than a year into the job as head of corporate sales, David Spencer is succeeding, writes Hugh Hunston

Pushing against a "fairly stiff door" is how David Spencer, head of corporate sales at Jaguar, describes his initial attempts to foster commitment for the business car sales within Jaguar. However, his relentless campaign to raise awareness internally about the "intrinsic value of corporate" is beginning to get results, and has the blessing of Jaguar's chief executive Geoff Polites. As Spencer says: "The door is now ajar and opening wider by the day."

One key change to make it pass that opening door is the increased use of the retail network as a channel, as demonstrated by hacking direct sales back from 1000 to 200 cars a year and withdrawing from daily rental business.

Spencer explains: "I want us to back away from Jaguar being the lead contact with the obvious companies. We are putting the dealer back as the front man or woman with these relationships. Our expertise lies in profiling firms to get on lists and into corporate consciousness, with intelligence support for retailers."

As a qualified engineer Spencer says he "measures things before acting and that determines how we target the market". He rattles out figures, stating that 1500 companies generate 500,000 business sales annually, 22,000 companies buy 1.5m units, and in the sub-25 territory 150,000 firms operate 360,000 cars.

"Everyone in the sector picks from the low hanging fruit because it is the easy option. Those 1500 companies are done to death and even internally we fell over each other. I visited an electronics firm to discover that four Jaguar reps had made the same visit in the same day," Spencer recalls.

He admits that it's been "educational" getting retailers to alter their approach. "They must be convinced of profitability from assuming corporate responsibility and prospecting local businesses. The irrevocable fact is that 40% of dealer sales are corporate, excluding demonstrators."

To facilitate the process, what was four development managers and four corporate sales managers has been streamlined to six new generation corporate sales operatives, and to help them do their jobs "we measure more accurately who we sell cars to and through what channels, to provide a matrix which we task our people with".

National advertising, heavy on image and not content, will contain a corporate sales element, too - a change, Spencer claims was down to the fact that his "lone wittering voice now produces some traction". He explains: "The marketing machine is a juggernaut which should promote corporate, although it is steaming along on retail waters. So I plan to hijack it."

Going it alone

When Spencer first became head of corporate sales his first job was to "disassemble" the underachieving joint Jaguar-Land Rover fleet operation, which he admits "had penalised us both in terms of losing brand focus".

Spencer says: "80% of the business was Jaguar so the bulk of resources needed to go with that brand without all the costs. There were synergies but frequently companies had non-4x4 policies. Sometimes it was incredibly difficult remembering to talk about Land Rover."

Although the fleet alliance has been dismantled Spencer supports a "holistic Ford trust mark approach" to restricted and open badge deals "without blowing our socks off in discount terms".

This operates in parallel with the web-based Business Partner Select (customer and product configuration) initiative pioneered jointly with Lex, which targets particular firms and opt out drivers.

Spencer explains: "This makes us more tactical because we can put an offer directly on to this site with preferential terms specifically for the company and its employees needs. We are piloting it with Amco (a construction engineering contractor) before extending it to include Nestle and BP."

The new XF

Jaguar's replacement for its executive S-type saloon is the XF, due next year, and Spencer's team will be instrumental in the marketing charm offensive, including a nationwide roadshow using the C-XF concept car and visits to the Castle Bromwich factory.

Equally significant is "tailored access", via an un-named major leasing and contract hire company, to detailed data on owners of rival premium brand cars. This, Spencer, concedes contrasts with a "not particularly sophisticated database in the past".

Affinity groups ranging from the Women's Institute to dentists, lawyers and the Football Association, are also part of the XF gameplan, contributing to an anticipated three-fold business car factor for the crucial new car compared to the outgoing S-type.

In a company currently suffering from a lack of mainstream state-of-the-art business car products it should help Spencer still further in his battle to improve fleet's standing within Jaguar.