MANAGING DIRECTOR, FCA GROUP
Breadth and appeal of FCA brands is simply ‘compelling’ and group has a product to suit every fleet requirement says managing director
Twelve months into Arnaud Leclerc’s posting as managing director, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) UK & Ireland, he is in no doubt about the strength of the brands he is helping to deliver to market.
While he concedes there have been challenges along the way, Leclerc says the group’s newly established range, spanning numerous sectors with the varied appeal of its four – car and LCV – brands is a compelling offer to fleets.
Additionally, Leclerc is confident he has a support network in place to make FCA a key challenger to the UK’s biggest fleet sector players.
Now, as he tells Soluzioni magazine, it is time to deliver the exposure that new products from Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep and Abarth warrant, backed by levels of bespoke customer care to exceed those demanded by fleet operators.
“The main advantage of presenting the FCA Group’s proposition to fleet customers is that we are a true multi-brand solution,” said Leclerc. “We very much have a product to suit every fleet requirement.
“Whether we are presented with public sector, corporate, SME customers or demanding user-choosers we can meet their needs.”
Leclerc described 2018 as a year the FCA Group truly began to focus on its long-terms goals in fleet.
“We clearly wanted to decrease our presence in short-term fleet and really focus on building our sales into the corporate, SME and public sectors,” he said.
This had an impact on the brands’ fleet registration figures.
In 2018, Alfa Romeo’s fleet registrations declined by 17.2% to 1,522 (2017: 1,839), Fiat’s by 42.8% to 12,052 (2017: 21,070) and Jeep’s by 5.8% to 3,258 (2017: 3,460).
The shift has allowed the FCA organisation to add emphasis to the bespoke approach to customer service, which is delivered by its business centre network. Leclerc said the strength of its team of back office fleet sales and support operation, and its field-based team of fleet managers, has helped drive standards that are higher than ever. The net result of this action was an overall increase in ‘true fleet’ sales for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Abarth.
This change in strategy has enabled FCA to strengthen its position as a ‘challenger brand’ in the UK with a concerted push to promote a crop of entirely new and updated vehicles to the fleet sector.
Leclerc said: “In the UK we are considered a ‘challenger brand’ so our next priority is very much to ensure that people get to know the strength of the products we have and the value they offer.
“One of the most important KPIs we had was that of needing to improve our group-wide residual values. The quality of the product that has come through in recent months and years, and some close working with the team at Cap HPI, has helped to achieve that goal.
“The result is that business users are able to benefit from far more affordable rates and a lower cost of ownership when they choose an FCA Group vehicle, and that is a huge selling point for us now.”
Among the new products to boost residuals, and the profile of the range as a whole, have been the Giulia saloon and the Stelvio SUV.
“The main advantage of presenting the FCA Group’s proposition to fleet customers is that we are a true multi-brand solutio. We very much have a product to suit every fleet requirement.”
But Leclerc is also proud of the influence of the recently-introduced flagship Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, a vehicle which has put the 4x4 brand firmly in the super-premium end of the segment with its £89,999 price tag and 710PS 6.2-litre V8 engine.
“That’s a car which will really help to build profile, even in the more conservative parts of the fleet market,” said Leclerc.
Visibility and affordability need to be matched with practicality, though.
Leclerc said this means that a first-rate customer service and a franchised network which is prepared and equipped to meet the needs of fleet customers is vital.
The FCA Group currently has 15 strategically-positioned specialist business centres, Leclerc said, and while an ambition first voiced in 2018 that the brand would develop up to 40 such centres was still on the cards, he is not willing to grow quickly at the expense of quality.
“I have faith in our retailers, but this is a specialised area of the business and certain standards have to be met,” he said.
“The ambition is still there to grow the business centre network but we are determined to maintain the highest standards for our fleet customers and, as such, it’s not a short-term goal.
“It is better that we are able to offer the very best customer service from strategic locations and be sure that we are able to offer the levels of knowledge and service that we demand.”
Among the key demands that Leclerc is keen to impress on the business centre network is that of a need to address fleet issues with great urgency.
For example, retailers are being encouraged to provide a mobile maintenance service around the clock.
Leclerc said: “If a fleet customer needs an issue solving right then and there our aftersales offering has to be mobile.
“We have to be there to address the needs of fleets and keep their vehicles on the road, working at anti-social times if necessary.
“We empower our business centre network to be flexible to meet the needs of their fleet customers. We don’t always have a fixed set of criteria for every fleet, every situation, but we pride ourselves on being flexible and finding the right solutions. The partners we work with can provide that.”
Reliability is another area in which FCA UK is keen to see its brands excel with both its cars and LCVs as it competes for a share of public sector contracts with the NHS.
After securing a position as provider to 11 of the UK’s 13 NHS ambulance trusts last year – a rise from just two four years ago – the group’s fleet team feels bullish about its growth potential.
The FCA fleet team estimates that the average cost attached to a German competitor ambulance would have been in the region of £100,000, whereas the equivalent Ducato would be closer to £70,000-£80,000.
Leclerc shares their optimism: “We have high hopes for the Ducato. At the start of 2018 we encountered a few supply issues which affected our registrations performance, but we know it’s a strong product and the relationship we are forging with the NHS is very promising.”