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The BusinessCar Interview: James Taylor, Vauxhall

Date: 02 March 2015   |   Author:

Vauxhall fleet sales director James Taylor wants to lead the market in true fleet and believes that refocusing the manufacturer's core model line-up will position it for growth with businesses this year. Tom Seymour reports

Vauxhall is looking to increase its true fleet market share from 9% to 10% this year, and it's likely the work the brand has done to reposition its core models will get it there.

The manufacturer actually saw a slight reduction in its total fleet volumes in 2014, down from 145,595 units in 2013 to 141,779, the slip of 2.6% in part attributed to competing in the market with older version of its core models.

The Astra is Vauxhall's biggest fleet player and volumes fell by 17.1% to 40,812 units last year. The Corsa's volumes were clearly tailing off too in the run-up to the new model arriving late in 2014, and sales dropped by 15.9% to 33,058 units.

Dropping the price on the Insignia and launching a comprehensive strategy to reposition it for fleet worked. The upper medium model increased corporate sales by 9% to 27,523 units last year, beating both the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-class. The Insignia's performance was helped by a delayed new Ford Mondeo, with the existing version of Vauxhall's key upper medium rival  slipping 11 places in the fleet sales table to 27th position last year with 12,799 units.

Speaking to BusinessCar, James Taylor, Vauxhall UK's fleet sales director, says the total fleet performance reduction experienced by the brand was also due to both a move away from short-cycle business and production restrictions on certain models.

The Luton-based firm has a big year ahead, though, with a new Corsa now on sale and an all-new Astra due in the second half of the year. Together, they take the top two fleet positions for Vauxhall in the UK by volume, with the latter leading the way.

As a big fleet player, Vauxhall is well-known for its bargaining power when it comes to large, blue-chip fleet deals, but Taylor says it will be looking for growth with smaller businesses too this year, which is why it has appointed an SME team of 11 specifically targeting fleets with between 25 and 99 vehicles. Its primary focus is to connect with end users.

Taylor says: "Other manufacturers have tried focusing on this market, but from a fleet perspective, people are your business and you need to get them out there into the market, representing the brand.

"There's a much greater opportunity for us to talk to customers with a dedicated team working alongside the larger fleet team. We're where we need to be in terms of having a whole-life cost conversation with fleets from the work we've done with the Insignia and the Corsa."

Taylor admits that Vauxhall's success with large fleets had meant the smaller fleets were not receiving the same level of attention.

He says: "What we're doing. is taking the expertise from working with those larger fleets and giving our SME team access to that knowledge, and giving those customers the same level of support and service we've been offering the larger fleets.

"We know how to structure deals well and this will filter down to the SME business we're doing. I think before it was just human nature: we were focused on the larger accounts because they demanded more attention and time."

The new team has been appointed from a variety of places: as well as from within Vauxhall, people have joined from the leasing industry and other manufacturers, and they will be working alongside some who are completely new to the industry. Taylor believes it gives Vauxhall a good mix when talking to businesses about what the brand can offer.

Vauxhall has a demo fleet of 1000 vehicles, which Taylor says will mean it is more likely the brand can arrange for a demo of an exact model for SME clients. Vauxhall is also encouraging three-day test drives to convince new customers.