INTERVIEW: New Peugeot fleet boss speaks to BusinessCar
09 December 2008
Author: Tristan Young
Phil Robson, Peugeot's new business car boss, tells Tristan Young about his plans for 2009
Peugeot's new fleet boss Phil Robson has a wider remit than any previous incumbent, and possibly wider than any of his peers. That's because Robson is not only in charge of the French manufacturer's fleet business, but he also heads up used cars and leasing firm Peugeot Contract Hire.
At a time when car registrations are reflecting wider fiscal conditions and used car values are plummeting, Robson believes the extra responsibility will be able to give him the edge over competitors.
Even though the market is currently tough Robson prefers to search for the positives. For example, he believes now is a good time to buy new cars because in three years the market will have recovered and residual values will be strong.
Robson says: "To quote [US billionaire investor] Warren Buffett: 'When others are afraid, be brave.' The recovery will have to start with the used car market; used cars are tremendous value at the moment."
Robson is also looking at the new car market for signs of optimism.
He continues: "People are moving to smaller and lower CO2 cars, so it suits us with our small car and diesel engine heritage. 107 is doing well for us - we've seen some downsizing. 207 is also good.
"It's an extreme example but we had someone trade in their Land Rover Freelander for a 107."
While Robson wouldn't commit to a sales prediction for 2009 he says Peugeot won't push cars into fast-turn daily rental business.
"Our daily rental share will be less next year than this, with a 20-25% decrease in units next year."
Peugeot's fleet plans for 2009 involve publicising its green credentials, which it claims are some of the best for any car maker, and improving its dealers' business car sales.
"We don't tell enough people what we're good at, and that's CO2 and going green. People want to be seen to be green, and the link between Peugeot and that isn't there. We need to do more. We are starting and we've had some success in councils and utility firms.
"Peugeot needs to tell fleets what is stands for, we've been poor at that until now."
To that end Robson is restructuring the fleet marketing department.
For the past four years Robson has been running Peugeot dealerships, giving him a strong understanding of what needs to improve to boost local business fleet sales.
"We have a fleet programme with dealers. There are graded levels of fleet centres, but my view is that all are fleet dealers because they are the shop front in every town for the brand.
"Dealers' opportunity next year is in fleet. Lots of things need tightening down in terms of selling to fleets. We'll help them, on the database and how to make the most of Peugeot's strengths.
"We're going to build these guys some tool kits to help them, tool kits aimed at small local businesses. Key is aftersales, it's just a case of looking after customers and appreciating fleet needs such as collection and delivery and maybe fixed price servicing."
Finally, for those leasing their cars through Peugeot Contract Hire, Robson says: "We can be strong because we can set RVs." However, he tempers that statement by saying that like every other leasing company in the current economic climate the number of contract extensions is rising as the cost of money increases and RVs fall.