Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – head of sales operations & remarketing at Renault UK, Mark Dickens.
QWhat does the imminent arrival of the Captur and Megane plug-in hybrid models, as well as the Clio Hybrid before the end of this year, mean for Renault’s fleet business?
It’s huge for us. You’re talking to the UK arm of Europe’s number one electrification brand. So, to launch hybrid and plug in hybrid to join EV, it’s the start of the next phase of the journey. The key point with Clio and Captur joining Zoe is that our drive behind all of this is a democratisation of electrified vehicles. If you take Clio today, the hybrid is 22% BiK rate and Captur [PHEV] is 10%. That’s a huge change from petrol and dCi so there’s a real drive towards electrification.
Of course most of our offering at the moment is in the B-segment, and it’s the user-chooser, salary-sacrifice type of business that we do in the B-segment.
RENAULT RESIDUALS UNDER CONTROL
Renault has been moving in the right direction with its residual values over the past two years, starting with the switch to the simplified Easy Life spec set-up, offering few options but instead having cars that are well specified.
“We launched the Easy Life range and since we did that the RVs on all the vehicles moved forwards. We had an uplift in brand RV by 6% year-on-year,” explains Renault fleet boss Mark Dickens. “There are a lot of factors behind that, it’s the way we run our used car programme Renault Approved, the way we channel the business down the dealers, so we have something like a 93% repatriation of all our used cars, to the dealer network.
“That used car programme means that dealers are soaking up all of our used cars, ex-rental, company cars, RCI vehicles that come back, as a real strong demand and post-Covid, we’re seeing values to the dealer, so us selling to the dealer, at above Cap,” Dickens continues. “Particularly on Zoe and Clio. Used car demand is huge, and all of that clearly has a knock-on effect on residual values.”
QWhat do you expect from the new hybrid models in the corporate sector?
From an estimation of volume in those channels, you’re looking at between 10% and 20% at the moment. What’s happened in the market is that this year since Covid, everything has changed and we’ve seen a downsizing, with people coming out of C-segment to B-segment. We’ve also seen a higher interest in petrol; in our customer bank, people are moving away from diesel towards petrol. Once you can offer a hybrid or plug-in hybrid solution, it may well take a bigger weight to what we’re expecting. We set a very realistic expectation.
QWhere does Megane plug-in hybrid sit, given that it’s a more fleet-orientated car anyway?
The C-segment is still the dominant sector in fleet. We’ve not had electrified vehicles at all until we come to Megane Sport Tourer plug-in hybrid, and between now and the end of next year you’re going to see a complete change in that range – there will be both hybrid and plug-in hybrid offerings.
But what you will also see is that there’s a move from Euro6D temp engines to Euro6D full. I think you will see a reduction in diesel engine availability across the board – I’m talking all manufacturers – and you’re definitely starting to see that migration towards petrol.
If you’re now a C-segment customer driver and you’ve had a diesel C-segment anything, you’re going to be pushed now towards petrol, because of the Euro 6D emissions regulations and the subsequent cost of the cars, so you’re going to look straight for hybrid versions of those, whether that’s plug-in or full.
QWhat are the implications of that change for Renault?
It’s quite exciting, and I use that word carefully. The reason I think it’s exciting is because in the C-segment we’ve struggled. We’ve got a Megane that is a great car and everyone says is a great car, everyone that drives it says it’s a great car, but we won’t sell vehicles for a loss. We just don’t. I won’t get into that side of the business. So therefore, we are not the cheapest in the market, when it comes to somebody looking for monthly payment. You don’t find Meganes splattered all over broker sites, it’s just not there, because I think it’s bad business to sell stuff at a loss. But the implementation of Euro6 diesel and plug-in hybrid starting to come onto the market, I think it’s like a reset button. You’re going to see quite a change in the market offering mainly because of cost of goods. Therefore, people will be repricing vehicles, and that is going to set a benchmark on hybrid vehicles in the C-sector that is different to where we are today. I think it’s quite exciting because we now have a chance to reset Megane’s position in the in that C-segment offer.
Will we see Megane growth afterwards? It’s a difficult one because I’ve no clue what’s going to happen with the other manufacturers. If they all come to market and decide to lose money in order to hit CAFE regulations…
QWhere will Renault be on the CAFE average emissions targets, and how will that affect how you carry out your business next year?
CAFE is the driving force behind the vehicle plan. Renault is not paying CAFE fines. All of our plans are aligned to deliver the vehicle plan in line with CAFE. All of our production is built around a sales plan to ensure we don’t have issues of having to push vehicles into the market, just to achieve CAFE.
This has been 10 years coming. EV has been at the heart of everything we were doing since 2011. Zoe is a big part and a bigger part of what we’re doing, certainly for the next 12 months. The business on Zoe is really increasing year on year.
Last year, we increased by a factor of four on the year before, and we’ve just done it again. Right now, we’ve taken orders on the original sales plan for the year. In a normal year you’d say I’ve achieved my Zoe plan for the year. But we haven’t because we’re still accelerating. And by the time we get to the end of this year, we will have done, roughly five times what we did last year in fleet on Zoe which was four times a year before. It’s absolutely flying.
Keeping it within my Renault career, my favourite Renault company car of all time was a Clio V6. It was absolutely the best, I was a regional director at the time and I had the most fun in that car.
QSo why is that? How much of that is being driven the government’s changes to BiK?
If you look at the BVRLA stats this year, their measurement year-on-year was essentially showing the PCH was up 20%. I don’t personally believe that’s all retail customers suddenly clamouring for a lease. So PCH has got to be driven by cash-for-car and in that environment, the Zoe makes complete sense. Because let’s say you’ve got £200 a month to spend, a Zoe, with a high mileage, is £199 a month. So I think that’s driven a big interest in it.
The flip side of it is that significant growth has come from public sector. We’re about to announce 140 Zoes to South Lanarkshire council, Islington council has taken Zoe, Leeds City Council took 120 Kangoo ZEs, you’ve got Aberdeen Council, and something like 300-400 Zoes this year have gone into the NHS. Public sector electric-car use has really taken off.
On the corporate side of it, we’re seeing increased demand from those companies that signed up to EV100, and within that you question well, where does a B-segment vehicle sit in a company car environment? It’s because they’ve downsized out of C-segment into B-segment, to get the range.
QHow is your supply of electric vehicle looking?
All this noise about lack of supply; I don’t recognise it. Here and now we have enough stock that if somebody rolled in with a deal for thousands Zoes I could supply it by the end of October.
We’ve been doing this a while. When it’s normal business – and this is normal business for us – you know supply simply isn’t an issue.
QFrom a fleet perspective, in terms of your volumes, are you looking for a market share increase?
I think the challenge for us has always been in the C-segment hatch, sport tourer and our Kadjar SUV latterly, just because of the number of products that are in that sector. There are no bad cars, and because there are no bad cars, the customer choice is huge in the C-segment. But I think as that starts to migrate to electrification, you’re going to see some brands rise faster than others. There’s going to be a change and you can start to see it post-Covid already
QDo you feel you’re well placed to increase your market share?
As we move into 2021, electrification of the products is our key USP; we’re number one in Europe, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t top six in the UK, no reason at all from a product point of view. But as I said, honestly, it will come down to pricing in the end.
Of course we always want all the new product here right now, and there’s some really exciting stuff coming down the line as well. I think it’s safe to say that as we launch any product now, there will be an electrified version of it in some way shape or form.
“It doesn’t worry me particularly but the best part is the increase of knowledge. The awareness of EV is becoming greater because people are hearing about it from more people, which means you have less convincing to do.”