Under the Microscope: We speak to James Taylor, Vauxhall's fleet sales & marketing director
23 August 2018
Author: Rachel Boagey
As well as its oncoming product offensive, Vauxhall's fleet sales and remarketing director James Taylor has a few other tricks up his sleeve. Rachel Boagey reports.
On 1 August 2017, Vauxhall Motors, and its sister company Opel, became part of Groupe PSA. Since then, the group has been looking at how best to bolster its property assets across Europe, meaning that Vauxhall's current head office at Griffin House, Luton, is subject to a proposal to move. While the company won't be moving far away, remaining in Luton, it is a bit of a shame, because as soon as you walk through those doors you start to become engulfed in Vauxhall's deep history there, spanning more than 100 years.
Just as the Luton premises has always been home to Vauxhall, James Taylor has been at Vauxhall for the entirety of his career, since 1999 in fact, fulfilling various roles covering national fleet accounts and leasing before moving into his current position as fleet sales and remarketing director seven years ago.
Walking me through the building, Taylor says Vauxhall has seen a lot of change over the past few years, and much of that change has come from its recent merger with PSA.
While commercial vehicles have always been a big part of the brand, accounting for around 25% of total sales, Taylor says they will become an even bigger part going forward. "For the rest of this year and next we're launching a new CV strategy in which we will appoint about 60 CV specialist retailers that will provide enhanced sales and service for our customers to coincide with the new Combo coming at the end of this year and Vivaro next year." Interestingly, Taylor explains that on the back of the CV push, the brand hopes to pick up key car opportunities along the way.
He also explains that for the car fleet, Vauxhall has been focusing on many different strategies to pull in new customers. "The Tech Line range is something we introduced to focus on user-chooser drivers across our fleet passenger range, offering them low P11D alongside highly specced cars."
Another move to increase brand appeal to company car drivers was lowering general P11D prices on the range. "Certainly when we launched new Insignia, Corsa and Astra, we significantly rolled back list prices to make the cars more attractive for company car drivers; it was an intentional applied strategy and has meant they've been really successful in that sector."
Taylor says the brand's three-day test drive remains a big part of its focus on company car drivers and user-choosers alike, and maintains Vauxhall was the first to the market with this fleet strategy for over ten years, and far before it caught on among other manufacturers and became what is now a well-known initiative. "It's a great way for potential drivers to experience our products free of charge. We do about 4,000 a year and around two thirds convert to sales so it's gone down pretty well to attract new Vauxhall customers," he says.
Vauxhall also aims to have an industry-leading fleet website to not only be successful but also to be a default site for the fleet industry. "We aim to satisfy the needs of fleet managers on the website by allowing them to compare whole-life cost information across different industry products. We can then also hit them with our message and ask them if they want to throw a Vauxhall into their comparison search to see how it fares," Taylor adds.
"Last year, our fleet site actually came second in BusinessCar's top fleet websites feature and we think the only reason [it didn't win] is because your email to us went into our spam folder. I was considering sacking someone and then found the email sitting there; it was so annoying."
Part of Vauxhall's dedication to fleet and focus on becoming an even bigger player has involved the manufacturer reducing its rental volumes. "We've taken yet another step change in reducing our rental volume and have actually taken 10,000 out with the ambition of improving our residual values further," says Taylor.
Its focus on high BIK vehicles has meant Vauxhall has become the fastest-growing SUV brand in the UK according to SMMT data, a pretty impressive title considering it seems the whole industry has moved into that segment over the past few years. "Part of that product line-up is Mokka, Crossland and Grandland," says Taylor, "and one of the next big opportunities and areas of focus for us is Grandland."
Not only is the car getting a new Euro 6.2 diesel engine and relaunching in August, but it is also extremely low in CO2 at 108g/km, according to Taylor.
This in itself is an important focus for Vauxhall as Taylor explains that customers being constantly confused about WLTP is not doing the industry any favours. "Not many manufacturers have published their WLTP figures yet so we're hoping that the Grandland Tech Line will have the best BIK and the lowest SUVC product in the marketplace once all competitors publish theirs," he says. "All our data is now Euro 6.2 ready and available, order banks are open and CO2 is confirmed. We even went out with an email to customers and prospects, and explained this while a lot of our competitors just had massive gaps in their choice lists."
A big product push
As for products, Vauxhall has a few on the horizon, but Taylor says a big push in the next few months will be to get the Grandland to a much higher level of awareness. "We really hope to be able to continue the best in class BIK message post-Euro 6.2 for this car and will launch a few spec changes to make it even more visually appealing. It's the big opportunity for us right now in the second-biggest market segment and we're new there, but it will be exciting to see it grow. We're so used to selling lots of Astras, Insignias and Corsas but we should be selling as many Grandlands," he says.
But another focus is Vauxhall's electric vehicle (EV) strategy. "Everyone is uncertain when it comes to the future of electric," says Taylor, "but what's certain is that manufacturers really have to be working on this technology to meet the 2020 emissions standards, and we're one of them."
The manufacturer may have only seen around a 5% shift from diesel to petrol in terms of corporate fleets overall but it is going to be focusing on its electric presence. "I think electric will really take off when vehicles are truly operational without having compromises such as charge and range. When range is less of an issue, demand will expand but the industry is not quite there yet in terms of that growing to a significant level of the marketplace."
Vauxhall's offensive on EVs has been modified due to the merger. As Taylor explains, the PSA mentality is to apply technology to existing vehicles in the line-up rather than introduce all-new specifically electric vehicles. "We have the new Corsa with a combustion engine coming at the end of 2019 and will be introducing a full electric BEV in 2020. Also next year, we have the Grandland PHEV. Our Ampera under GM had four seats and no conventional boot, and put a lot of people off before they even saw the price as the car didn't do what the target market needed it to. The Corsa BEV on the other hand won't look any different on the inside and there will be no compromises, and that's the DNA that will flow through from now on."
Taylor explains while next year may be the year of the van for Vauxhall, the next few years will not only be about the new Corsa but about a far bigger electrification push, and this push is one Vauxhall expects to enable it to maintain its highly regarded position not just in the fleet market but in the whole industry.