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VW Group brands move to increase joint fleet deals

Date: 11 February 2015   |   Author:

Previously kept 'fiercely' independent, the five major brands of the Volkswagen Group are now actively looking at ways to take a more joined-up approach to the corporate market

Volkswagen Group is undergoing a cultural shift to encourage its five mainstream brands - Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW Commercial Vehicles - to actively engage in more joint fleet business rather than acting as independent entities, as has historically been the case.

Although the brands have on occasion worked together, there has not been a consistent strategy or process, something that is being looked at now.

"We are investigating different ways that we could work at a group level with customers and prospects," said Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles head of sales operations Andy Waite, with more to be revealed during 2015 "as we progress with some of the initiatives under investigation".

The move has come about in part because of former VW fleet chief Vince Kinner's move up to become group fleet boss, which has led to a closer working relationship between the fleet heads of the five brands. Kinner is to retire next month (see story below), but his work has led to an aligning of back-office and database operations.

"2015 will see us develop and collaborate much greater with other brands: the four car and two truck brands," said Volkswagen CV's Waite, also bringing in the MAN and Scania truck brands that VW owns as potential partners for the group's van arm. "It will enable us to talk to customers on a group basis, [with] a greater degree of group sales rather than talking individually."

Last year, Seat and Audi worked together on a deal to usurp BMW and Vauxhall as the fleet supplier for insurance giant Zurich, and the success of that deal has also, in part, provoked a sense of greater cooperation.

A key advantage for business car fleets would be that across several brands they could deal with one accounts invoicing department and one call centre, rather than several different ones if they currently have a multi-marque deal with a number of manufacturers.

"There's no great strategy - we are working on more collaborations now than ever as a fleet department, not just if we find them but actively looking for them," Audi fleet sales director James Douglas told BusinessCar. "It's quite informal, but different now to how it was 12 months ago. We're working more proactively with customers.

"It won't in any way diminish what we as Audi are doing, and we'll continue to expand in our own right, but if we can work together then we will," he continued, before stressing there would be new additions to Audi's fleet team this year.

"I don't want customers to have the impression that Audi fleet is going to disappear from the marketplace. This is something the heads of fleet are working on in a more informal way. We've got a group fleet director and it makes sense to work together."

Skoda's UK brand director Alisdair Stewart told BusinessCar late last year that he felt a closer association with the sister brands could help boost Skoda's fleet operations. "I think we need to work closer with VW Group colleagues to see if there are doors we are not currently opening; if VW Group opens the door then we can get in," he told BusinessCar.