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The Business Car Files: Stellantis

Date: 11 April 2022   |   Author: Martyn Collins

UK director for B2B James Taylor's job is to provide a coordinated approach for large fleet customers across the Stellantis group's nine brands. Martyn Collins talks to him about his role and the challenges moving forward.

Appointed Stellantis director for B2B last summer, James Taylor arrived with over 20 years' experience at Vauxhall - most recently as general sales and marketing director. He now works across the newly combined portfolio of brands, which includes Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Citroën, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot and of course, Vauxhall. 

Stellantis has a new matrix structure that is only been in place since 1 January, so Taylor explains how it all works. "We've still got ten fleet directors, for how the three organisations were originally structured," he says. "There's still a fleet director for FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), a fleet director for Peugeot, Citroën and DS and a one for Vauxhall. Iain Montgomery is Peugeot, Citroën, and DS. Laurence Hagger has taken over at FCA and the Vauxhall position is vacant at the moment. 

"Then there's the Stellantis Group functions within fleet, under Scott Westerby. Within that, there are several different departments. We've got the fleet operations team, which looks after the database, deal management, CRM, marketing, events, and demonstrators." According to Taylor, all the behind-the-scenes operations sit collectively under this area. He explains that, additionally, there are several sales functions that are run on a pure Stellantis basis. These are rental, leasing, special vehicles, major corporate fleets, and also special vehicle operations. 

"Each of those channel heads have got a dotted line into the individual fleet directors of the various brands," he says. "The fleet directors are still responsible in entirety, but in terms of management, and the liaising with the individual customers - that's done on a pure Stellantis basis for those areas. 

"Underneath Laurence, Ian and the Vauxhall teams, there are regional fleet teams. They will talk around the brands they're responsible for, but if there is a customer that's interested in another brand, so for example a Vauxhall buyer might be interested in Alfa Romeo, clearly, they will talk about Alfa Romeo, but primarily they are there to maximise the brand they're responsible for."

Taylor concedes that there is still some competition between teams around prospects, in terms of winning business. "In each of those teams there's a regional fleet manager that reports into the fleet director of their brands. So, it's certainly a little more complex than when it ran as individual brands, but hopefully it is getting the best of both worlds." 

According to Taylor, the biggest benefit of the new structure is the customers. "We know from experience gained at Vauxhall, that customers want a single point of contact," he says, "they don't want to be dealing with lots and lots of different people within a group. So, the fact that we can talk to them on a Stellantis basis is a big advantage. Plus, because each of those account managers are managing fewer accounts, I think we can achieve a deeper relationship with those customers as well. 

"Most fleet managers understand the combination of brands are all under one umbrella. Fleet is the only area we are going out on a Stellantis basis, rather than the individual brands. It is a unique challenge, but we've done a lot of communication in the run-up and going through the change, to make sure this is fully understood." 

When it comes to who will be a business's primary contact, Taylor explains: "If it's a leasing company it will done on a Stellantis basis. But if you're a 50-unit fleet that runs Vauxhall vehicles, for example, your primary contact is going to be a Vauxhall representative. When we looked at it, there wasn't a huge overlap between the customers of the existing brands. The vast majority of those have migrated into the major corporate fleet area, because they are the larger fleets and are handled on a Stellantis-basis anyway."

Electric cars, be they plug-in hybrid or full electric, are a big area of opportunity for Taylor. "If we look at the stats, we know how we've been constrained by availability - but we've done a good job building a very healthy share within the segments that we compete in during 2021. What we've got to do, is to get the same share of segment when we launch PHEVs and BEVs in the C and C-SUV segments in 2022. 

"Then there are the premium brands; if you look at them as a group, they are really, really strong in the volume segments. We've got a big opportunity with DS and Alfa Romeo to grow from where our share is today. A lot of that will be product led - as we fill more of the portfolio and compete in more of the market with those brands. 

"The other thing that will help is that we've very much managed on a customer demand basis, so it's not about chasing volume in those brands, because they are part of a big group. This will be great news for residual values, and likewise for whole-life cost. 

"The premium brands are going to take longer, but with electric vehicles we need to hit the ground running this year." 

Taylor's aspiration with low-emission vehicles is to overachieve compared with the marketing mix. "As a guide, we'd want to be taking at least the share of electric that we are taking for the ICE model. There's less competition on electric, so we should be doing a bit better than that. With 208 and Corsa, we're taking 40% of the segment. So, we've got to be punching for 20% share of segments as a minimum moving forward, because there's less competition in the short term and across the portfolio, this is what we're looking for."

The incoming Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra PHEV models are close in terms of concept, but Taylor does not believe customers will have any problem differentiating between these models. "The brands have their own distinct identity, so Peugeot has tried really hard since the 3008 with product quality and design, it's an upper-medium brand. Vauxhall are on that journey, but it started long after that. At the end of the day, customers will make their choice on what they want, and what they see as the best solution for them and their driver base. Obviously, we'd facilitate around that."