Vauxhall: plug-in hybrid education is key to Ampera success
04 May 2012
Author: Jack Carfrae
Having fleet and leasing customers understand the benefits of plug-in hybrids is crucial to the success of the Ampera - that's the view of Ian Allen, manager for environmental strategy and Ampera at Vauxhall, who told BusinessCar that take-up of the company's range-extender model has to start with corporate customers if it's to succeed.
"The thing with the fleet market is that if you get them and the leasing firms to understand it then it filters out from there. Even with the larger companies, we're not going to get three-, four-, five-hundreds. It's getting that understanding, getting it on choice lists and making people think where it could fit on their fleets.
"You've got to put people in the right car. A lot of that comes down to the leasing companies - they play a major role in making sure that they advise customers correctly."
Business customers are expected to make up half of all Ampera sales and Allen went on to say that the biggest issue for fleet buyers was the price (it currently starts at £37,250 before the Government's £5000 plug-in car grant).
"A lot of fleets say 'what's the discount?' and we're not offering any on this vehicle. As long as they understand the car, they don't have any range issues. If they disregard the car because it has four seats or because it's not an estate - fine. If they disregard it because they haven't understood the concept then that's our fault."
Despite the fact that range-extenders have been heralded as a practical alternative to internal combustion engines, Allen admitted that they aren't necessarily the answer for high-mileage business drivers and that, though difficult to pinpoint, there is a cut-off point in terms of mileage where they cease to become viable: "Once you start going over 15-18,000 miles a year, you've got to start looking at the electric miles you're doing."
Allen also said Vauxhall will have a production-ready fuel-cell hydrogen car on the road within the next four years: "The plan is by 2016 to have a hydrogen car on the road. Production ready.
"The fuel stack in the car we have at the moment will be greatly reduced for the production model."
Simon Prior, product manager for the Ampera, told BusinessCar that the firm has plans to launch a smaller electric vehicle than the Ampera, which is likely to be a full electric car rather than a range extender. A larger MPV with a similar range-extender system to that of the Ampera will also be available in due course.
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