Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – James Taylor, Vauxhall’s fleet sales director
You’ve got a major new product launching right now. Just how important is the new Insignia to Vauxhall? A
It’s a flagship car for the brand, it’s absolutely critical for positioning the brand in all consumers’ minds. I think it’s a fantastic design inside and out and from a fleet perspective, since we did the new car in 2014 [revised previous-generation Insignia] it’s been number one in its segment, so it’s critical we get back to that with the new car and compete a little bit more toe-to-toe with the premiums.
Is it achievable to take sales from the premium brands with the new car? A
We’re pitching the Insignia Grand Sport as a premium challenger. Clearly we’re not a premium brand but what we want to do is to give our customers a premium car feeling and driving enjoyment. So from that point of view I think it stands very well against the premiums. We saw with the previous car that when you’ve got such a compelling proposition from a BIK point of view, a reasonable number of people do decide to come out of a premium car.
VAUXHALL’S NEW PRODUCT YEAR
Insignia Grand Sport April 2017
Crossland X (below) June 2017
Insignia Sport Tourer June 2017
Insignia Country Tourer Sept 2017
Grandland X Early 2018
What are your core objectives for the new Insignia Grand Sport? A
If you go back to when we launched the [revised Insignia] in 2014, against core competitors such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat, we were outselling them two-to-one and I guess our ambition is that we’ve got to get back to that kind of performance again. From a whole-life-cost proposition the car is potentially an even greater step on than the last change because we’ve rolled prices back again by £2500 versus the outgoing car, so from a P11D point of view we’re in a fantastic spot.
Where does the forthcoming Insignia Sport Tourer estate fit into Vauxhall’s fleet plans? A
It’s coming along just a few weeks behind the hatchback. It has a much bigger and more useable load space than the previous car. The previous generation looked fantastic but it did demand a compromise in terms of load capacity and load access. That’s gone with this car so we’re competing more head-on with the class leaders, and it will open up quite a lot of new customers that previously considered the car from a design and P11D point of view but for whom it didn’t quite work from a practicality point of view. We should see Sport Tourer grow its share; historically it was running at 15% of mix but that should grow to at least 20%.
TAYLOR selects his stand-out cars
Astra Convertible Turbo
The four-seater soft-top was based on the sleek Astra Coupé. I love the way it blended great looks, courtesy of Italian design team Bertone, and potent performance.
Insignia Grand Sport
Our new flagship looks great and drives fantastically, and comes with exceptional standard equipment, including the OnStar system.
With a design that blends elegance with ruggedness, the Grandland X will offer our customers a raised seating position, good all-round visibility and lots of luggage space.
What are Insignia’s Grand Sport’s most important new features? A
There are a number of key things standard on the new car that either weren’t available or were options on the previous car. In no particular order I’d say keyless entry, now standard at the start of the range is nice, especially when you’re talking about being a premium challenger. It gives a nice first driver experience of the car, and is a good premium feature. We’ve got OnStar standard across the range and IntelliLink is now standard, with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus we’ve got forward-collision alert with automatic city brake, speed-sign recognition, lane-departure warning and lane assist.
Where will the sweet spot be in terms of trim levels? A
We’ve simplified the range a little bit, so every model gets navigation as standard, apart from the Design and SRi. We think 90% of our sales will be versions with an embedded satnav system, and I think we will see a moderate increase in the higher trims because of the growth in user-choosers due to the car’s P11D positioning. Tech Line and Elite will grow maybe 5-10% because of the new car bounce of greater consideration, and we’ll pick up a greater share of user choosers. That naturally drives a higher trim mix.
This year isn’t just about Insignia though. What are Vauxhall’s product plans for the rest of 2017? A
We’ve got a lot of new products to launch this year. Obviously, Insignia is critical to the brand from a halo perspective, but we’ve then got the Crossland X coming within a month or so of Insignia, and that’s getting us into a segment we’re not really in today, slightly below Mokka as a crossover-type vehicle. We all know the market is trending towards crossovers so we need to be in there, and then we’ve got Grandland X coming at the start of 2018 (see first pictures, page 4), but there will be an awful lot of activity around that, particularly in fleet, at the back end of this year. After Insignia, that will be the second most important car in the range going forward; I can only see the segment growing and we’ve got a fantastic proposition. We’re not there at the moment so it’s all incremental sales. It’s a fantastic opportunity.
OnStar is pioneering technology, but a tricky message to get across. How is that going? A
It’s very much a work in progress. We had a launch campaign in 2015 but clearly getting the message across to the fleet and retail world is going to take a lot more effort over a long period of time. What will help is as it becomes standard on more vehicles and more people experience it, word of mouth begins to come in. We’re still a year or two ahead of the competition in terms of OnStar. Operationally, it all works very well in terms of the driver’s experience, so it’s just about getting that in more people’s minds so they see it as a reason to buy a Vauxhall. At the moment, it’s probably fair to say people are getting OnStar in their cars and didn’t even realise they were going to get it. It’s got great safety features, so for any company that wants a safety-orientated fleet, we’ve got a great USP.
TAYLOR ON… Future of the D-segment:
“If you’re one of the last remaining in the segment you benefit from people dropping out. It’s important we keep our presence because it’s likely that a few more people will drop out over time and we’ll pick up some volume. Clearly you’re going to see more move over to crossovers but in another five-10 years there will still be an Insignia in this segment. I don’t see it declining to the point where that doesn’t happen.”