The Business Car Files: Suzuki UK
02 February 2022
Author: Martyn Collins
In 2021, alongside new product, the fleet department of Suzuki UK had its operations centralised with a new national fleet manager at the helm, in the form of Lee Giddings. Martyn Collins talks to him about the manufacturer's fleet plans moving forwards.
Lee Giddings has only been in his role for 10 months, heading up the new fleet team at Suzuki. Prior to this, he joined the Japanese carmaker as contract hire, leasing and motability manager. So, Business Car asked him what his plans were for Suzuki's fleet presence - after what has been a successful time for the manufacturer in fleet.
"Our ambition has always been to increase our presence within the fleet market, and we continue to do this in the right channels. As a brand, Suzuki prides itself on being different and we have focused a lot of energy into this area and how we can stand out from competitor brands, whether that be events, marketing or communication with customers and I'm confident this will shine through going into 2022.
"We've also streamlined numerous processes internally to ensure we are 'easy to deal with' throughout the customer's journey.
"We felt the previous Suzuki Business Partner Programme was a little overcomplicated, so we have replaced this with a new Direct Sales Partner Programme. This simplified programme benefits both the customer in terms of service levels and also our network in terms of clarity and understanding, whilst still ensuring nationwide coverage."
Giddings realises the ongoing importance fleet has to Suzuki and getting the message across to corporate customers.
"Fleet to Suzuki has always been about delivering incremental and profitable volume to the brand and this hasn't changed. We're keen to grow volumes but it's also hugely important that we do this in the right way and in the right channels.
"Let's just say that we have some exciting plans to do this in 2022.
"My belief is that the fleet market has been excited by our introduction and that we are very much now a considered choice for fleet customers. I'm really pleased with the feedback we receive directly from our core partners, which is both refreshing and exciting for the future."
Much of Giddings confidence in the growth of Suzuki fleet volume, is because of his belief that the current Suzuki range is particularly relevant.
"Now, more than ever, I am confident in saying that we really do have a fit for fleet range of products. From our compact SUV, the Ignis, which is great for public sector and salary sacrifice schemes all the way through to the Across, our first ever PHEV and halo model for our brand, which is great for company car drivers with class leading BIK levels.
"We firmly see the leasing industry as our focus, not just because of the great relationships we have in place but also the importance of those leasing companies introducing more end user opportunities and supporting our public sector growth.
The significance that the current Suzuki range is made up of models with mild hybrid, full hybrid and plug-in technology isn't lost on Giddings as they move towards electrification.
"I think it provides us with a great opportunity as we move towards more electrified products. That said, in the segments we compete in, there are a relatively small number of EVs on offer, so it's very much a case of right product, right time for us.
"Our objective this last year has been introducing both Swace (pictured) and Across models to the fleet industry, given both models were launched during lock down periods. This proved a real success, and we have since seen really good volumes on both models. Swace is now our biggest volume model across fleet channels. Of course, key models such as Swift and Vitara continue to perform strongly and as I have alluded to, New S-Cross will play a pivotal role for us next year.
"We haven't put a number on the fleet/retail mix for the new S-Cross as such, however, this car naturally lends itself to the fleet market. Just a few weeks ago we introduced the car to the industry guides, and I'm delighted to say that we've achieved class leading residual values on the car, something that if we're honest, hampered us with the old model. That alone provides us with far greater opportunities with funded fleet business."
So, there's already a real awareness of Suzuki as a fleet choice, with drivers coming out other cars - but which?
"It's such a diverse mix to be honest. Since Covid we've seen people moving away from premium brands into our products but also seen people naturally moving to us from our key competitor brands."