Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Coffee With… James Taylor, Fleet Sales, CV and Remarketing Director, Vauxhall
The next 12 months will be pivotal for Vauxhall, as it is about to embark on a road where plug-in vehicles take on greater significance, especially in the business sector, as James Taylor discusses.
QElectric vehicles are going to be your big story over the next 12 months with the new Corsa E and Grandland X PHEV. It must be a relief to have these vehicles coming through?
We are speaking to lots of people who are interested. For electric cars, I would say that 12 or 24 months ago, there wasn’t that same enquiry about what the solutions are. But that seems to have changed quite dramatically recently and there does seem to be this interest in electric vehicles.
Vauxhall and Opel’s 2017 acquisition by PSA Groupe, parent company to Citroen, DS and Peugeot, is instigating a product line-up change as the brand moves over from previous owner GM’s platforms to those of the French company.
“It’s been very much a year full of product launches, whether that is new models or new engines; and we’ve had quite a lot of launches on the commercial vehicle side as well,” Vauxhall’s fleet boss James Taylor tells Company Car Today.
“There’s been a lot of transition, from the legacy GM platforms out of the business and the start of the move into the new PSA platforms. We always had Grandland X and Crossland X that were on a joint PSA platform and we’ve now launched Combo and new Vivaro. Equally, you’ve seen Astra GTC and Zafira Tourer finish, then Cascada and over the next few months we’ll see Viva, Adam and Mokka X end.”
The big new model news late this year is the new Corsa supermini, another platform-share with the new Peugeot 208, while the lower medium Astra has recently been revised including RDE2-compliant engines, with first deliveries coming in November. The Grandland X and Insignia will get new powertrains next summer, with more details expected in the spring.
QHow important will the new PHEV version be in terms of overall Grandland X volume?
We’re looking at circa-5000 in terms of volume aspirations. This year we will do circa-25,000 Grandland Xs, so I guess you’re looking at 15-20% of mix. We should do more Grandland Xs next year because Mokka X is due to fall out of the model portfolio and probably more people will migrate to Grandland X rather than Crossland X from that car.
QHow important will the fleet market be for that plug-in hybrid car?
I would expect a significant majority to be company car drivers. There’s no doubt that we will do some retail but the majority of those sales are going to need to come from company car drivers choosing the vehicle.
The other part of it from a product perspective is that it’s an exceptional product; you’ve got four-wheel drive and you’ve got 300hp equivalent with the four electric motors so it’s kind of like a performance vehicle. It’s certainly not a vehicle that’s utilitarian from a buy-in-bulk point of view.
The first vehicles will be on the road in January, and one of the key things where I hope we will have an advantage over the competition is people saying to me we want to order hybrids, electric vehicles etc, but there are exceptionally long lead times. We’re planning for deliveries of Grandland X PHEV to begin in January and Corsa-E in March in significant volumes.
I think we will have enough supply for what we require. The group feels that it is in a good place with its supply chain for the manufacturing of both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. There do seem to be really long lead times on some of the vehicles out there today. I actually thought that was just because those cars were being held back for 2020, but it seems that the lead times are being quoted well into 2020 which says the customers are finding it difficult to get hold of those vehicles. This is particularly the case for those that want to buy a significant number, and hopefully that should be one of our advantages that we will be in free supply of the electric Corsa from March.
QWhat sort of share of Corsa volumes will the electric version account for?
You’re probably looking at 10-15% mix of Corsa, so it’s not a small number but equally it’s not the same as having a whole other car line to sell. Order take so far has been good on fleet, so I’m very excited indeed about it.
TAYLOR selects his stand-out cars
ASTRA CONVERTIBLE TURBO
It would have been around 2004 that I had one and I loved that car, it was brilliant. I was out in the field at the time and doing a lot of miles, and I remember that it was so much fun to drive.
The current Insignia is a great car, even though you don’t necessarily see as many on the road as its predecessors. To do a lot of miles it’s quiet, refined and looks really good.
VAUXHALL CORSA E
I want to see what it’s like. Undoubtedly electric is the future, and once a customer has an electric car, they’re never going to go back to an ICE vehicle. This is the change I was told was coming 20 years ago.
QYou must be relieved that you now have an answer to the electric vehicle question?
It has come at the just right time for us, because there is a massive opportunity today with the advent of electric motoring; a customer that has possibly been with a brand for a long time but who just doesn’t see an electric solution in that portfolio will be forced to look outside. Clearly that’s a risk for us as well if we haven’t got certain products in certain segments, but I think there’s going to potentially be more change in what people buy in terms of brands than there has been historically because not everybody can do everything because of the investment involved and trying to bring it all to market – you have to choose what you are going to do first.
QAnd plug-in vehicles are going to be a big deal in terms of the company hitting its CO2 targets and avoiding the associated large fines?
What is critical is that we put all our focus in to selling the Corsa battery EV in particular, and behind that the Grandland X PHEV because they have without doubt the biggest impact on the brand’s average CO2.
It’s one of the things you clearly have to do to hit your EU Café target, with battery electric vehicles counting double, rather than trying to tweak a little bit of a change from petrol to diesel. That makes in reality quite a small difference versus if you can sell more of the BEVs and PHEVs.
QYou’ve recently revised the Astra. What opportunities lie ahead for you with that car?
I think in terms of the new RDE2-compliant engines there is an absolutely massive change from the existing car. Customers will see that when they experience driving them and you can see that from the stats. CO2 emissions are down, both on the diesel and the petrol, with the latter becoming more important as people have moved back out of diesel.
In some cases BIK has been reduced by up to seven bands on the new car, which is enormous. You’re looking at significant real-world fuel savings for the new vehicle over the previous one, and that helps cement the Astra as one of the core choices in that segment.
QDo you think the RDE2 message is getting through to fleets and drivers, given the significant BIK savings?
I’d say awareness is below where we would like it to be, given we have already launched an RDE2 vehicle. Clearly, everybody has got to launch over the next nine months or so. That does give us a big advantage now but one of the key things we have got to be able to do is get that communication message out. It is a significant enhancement, given that company car tax in general has significantly increased over the past few years. People coming out of a car they were in for three or four years are looking at a quite significant increase, especially if you don’t have an RDE2-compliant vehicle to offer them.
TAYLOR ON… Electric vehicle demand
“I think once the consumer gets used to it, they are going to want an electric car. The challenge is building the awareness and initial demand because from 2020 the industry has to sell this number of EVs and we may or may not be slightly ahead of where consumer demand is. But once you get people in, I think it’s unlikely they’d go back to having an ICE vehicle.”