Nissan is aiming to become the go-to manufacturer for leasing companies, with new national contract hire and leasing manager Richard Hale looking to work in partnership with them.

“I want to build the go-to team for leasing companies,” said Hale, formerly of Hitachi. “If they have a project or customer with specific requirements, dealing with Nissan makes sense to them because we get it. We’re not so focused on ‘the brand’ that we’ll just try and drive the brand message home.”

Hale said some manufacturers lack the expertise in their fleet operations to understand precisely what leasing companies are looking for.

“The problem all manufacturers have is that [for them] it’s all about [selling the benefits of their own] brand and brand positioning, but very few understand what goes on inside a leasing company; they are all about cost of ownership and downtime,” he said. “A lot of people use buzz phrases without understanding what they mean, but I do.”

Nissan has recently revamped the senior management of its fleet department, taking on executives with experience outside of car manufacturer operations. As well as Hale, who joined in November, national corporate sales manager Mark Wheeler moved from his previous role as head of manufacturer and dealer relations with Motability in December, while national LCV and dealer fleet manager Mark Middleton joined Nissan in October from his previous role as group LCV manager for Mercedes-Benz Retail Group.

“It’s important we have a balance towards people that really understand fleet. The customer requirements are very specific,” explained Nissan corporate sales director Barry Beeston. “I wanted to bring in quality expertise and we’ve invested in people that understand the fleet industry.”

He continued: “I don’t think we were lacking, but we’ve taken the opportunity. A couple of managers moved into different roles so it gave me the opportunity to look outside the normal recruiting process and bring in specialists; for example, recruiting an ex-director of a leasing company [in Hale] to head our leasing and contract hire. He understands how leasing companies operate and how best to interact with them.”

The personnel changes come off the back of a 2014 that saw widespread model changes, with the new Qashqai, Pulsar, Note and X-trail joined by a facelifted Juke and revised e-NV200.

“It’s a good time for us. Last year we had an avalanche of great products fit for fleet and this year it’s about developing the infrastructure that sits behind it,” concluded Beeston.