Company Car Today

Coffee With - Francis Bleasdale, Fleet & Remarketing Director, FCA Fiat ChryslerPaul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures -Francis Bleasdale, Fleet and remarketing director, FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK

Q
How has 2017 shaped up for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles so far?
A

It’s been a hugely busy start to the year; it’s the first full year of Alfa Romeo Giulia and Fiat Tipo, we’ve had continued work in developing the propositions that we have, and we’re preparing the ground for the launch of Jeep Compass and Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Q How far along are you in getting the message out to company car fleets that FCA is this group of five diverse brands?
A

I think we’re moving ahead with that very strongly. We have, for the past 18 months, genuinely positioned ourselves as FCA fleet and business. We have a team that sells everything so they provide, as a department, a single point of contact across all of the company’s brands, be it Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep, Abarth or Fiat Professional.

In terms of convenience, efficiency and helping us be more efficient as well, it gives us a unique point of differentiation in the marketplace. I don’t think anyone else is doing it with such a broad range of brands as we have, covering so many different segments, including a commercial vehicle range.

TAKING CONTROL OF TOTAL COSTS

“We’d always had someone in the team that notionally had responsibility for residual value, interaction with RV guides, responsibility for taking the data and lobbying, and  interaction with our colleagues in FCA bank and our own remarketing team, but we took the decision 12 months ago to have a 100% dedicated total cost of ownership manager. We called it TCO because residual value is a big part of TCO, but it’s also around what we’re doing with whole-life costs, and service and maintenance. Having that 100% focus and dedication, the knowledge and expertise we have and the knowledge of the data produced by the providers, is a night-and-day change from before. And it lets us better understand the consequences of our decisions.”

QSo, are you beginning to get through to business users?
A
We’re starting to get on more fleet policies as a group rather than as the individual brands. Rather than just cherry-picking certain brands, our customers are actually seeing the value of being able to choose all the brands and allowing them to fit into their policy in a number of ways. They see us as an interesting partner with interesting products that has had a number of exciting developments over the past few years as well.
“Rather than just cherry-picking certain makes, our customers see the value in choosing all the FCA brands”
QHow much is the new product helping that; filling in gaps in what company car drivers require?
A
Exactly that, it gives us coverage. Let’s not forget that probably less than three or four years ago, we had Fiat 500 in the fleet market for salary sacrifice, courtesy car, rental and some user-chooser, but beyond that our range was very limited and had very limited interest to fleets. That’s been completely turned on its head now. The process started with the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade into the compact SUV sector, and we’ve built on that with the addition of the Fullback pick-up and the addition of the Talento medium van, plus of course the Giulia has been major, and on top of that we have Tipo and now Stelvio.
Q
How important is that next new product, the Alfa Stelvio? 
A

TOP PICKS

BLEASEDALE selects his stand-out cars
PAST
LANCIA DELTA INTEGRALE 16V EVO
I am a rally fan, and that was the car of choice in the late 1980s, as I stood in forests watching the Martini-branded cars. This was the pioneer before Subaru and Mitsubishi.

Coffee With - Francis Bleasedale - Top Picks - Past - Lancia Delta Integrale 16V Evo

PRESENT
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QV
The Quadrifoglio is just a stunning car to drive, with amazing performance. It looks fantastic, and is probably one of the most capable performance cars on the road

Coffee With - Francis Bleasedale - Top Picks - Present - Alfa Romeo Giulia QV

FUTURE
ALFA ROMEO STELVIO
It’s got to be Stelvio, hasn’t it. I’ve not driven the QV but we’ve driven the Stelvio itself, and all of the brilliant driving characteristics and on-road dynamics of the Giulia are replicated in the Stelvio.

Coffee With - Francis Bleasedale - Top Picks - Future - Alfa Romeo Stelvio

It’s had huge interest and will be critical in terms of driving the brand forward, particularly in large corporate fleets, pharmaceuticals, financial services, those kind of sectors.

It will be critical in two areas. One, there is clearly a great opportunity for executive SUVs, and it’s a great chance for us particularly because Stelvio is such a fantastic car. And secondly, it will further add to the message of revival around Alfa Romeo. We’ve delivered Giulia and people can see it’s a really strong, desirable, credible executive saloon and then to follow it up in a kind of left-right combination is Stelvio.

QPresumably with the brands you’ve got – Alfa and Jeep in particular – people want to have a conversation at the moment so it’s a fairly open door?A
I would never describe it as an open door, it’s always a very competitive and challenging environment but we’re having the opportunity to have a conversation. It’s helped by a genuine appetite from customers for something new from different credible brands.
Q
How helpful is it for you to have a commercial vehicle offering as part of the FCA package?A

It’s fundamental. We have a number of customers that we have significant volumes of commercial vehicles with, and it has opened up the opportunity to have a deeper offer on passenger cars as well. It goes back to the whole question of the range of brands and products we can offer. We have to be able to deliver across a whole range of interests, and commercial vehicles are critical to that.

QHow do you reflect on Giulia’s arrival, and getting back into that very competitive segment, and what would be considered a success?A

What we’ve had is massive curiosity. First of all the car has been exceptionally well received, we’ve had tremendous interest and it’s got the highest utilisation we’ve ever had on our demonstration fleet. I think in terms of success it’s already there, and I would say that because before we launched this car, the biggest challenge we had was establishing credibility for the product. Could we deliver a product that could compete directly and be a credible alternative? By any measure, we’ve met that definition of success because it is one of the best cars we’ve ever launched, and one of the best cars in the market at the moment. I think it’s an outstanding car. 

A successful year this year would be establishing Giulia, establishing the Tipo, a successful launch of the Stelvio and an equally good launch of the Compass at the end of the year. 

BLEASEDALE ON…FCA’s growth targets

New cars are giving additional fleet growth, but that’s counteracted by some of the other models getting nearer the end of their life cycles. We’re expecting this year to be fairly steady, and we’ve also taken out some short-cycle business. We are less reliant on that than we have been in the past, which has been to make sure the RVs are strengthened and protected.