Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Coffee With… James Taylor, Fleet Sales Director, Vauxhall
Vauxhall’s big news for 2021 is the arrival of the striking Mokka small crossover, entering the major growth segment in petrol, diesel and electric form. But how will that shape the brand’s 2021 fortunes?
QThe best place to start is the new Mokka, given that it’s a good-looking new car in a big segment. Can you just outline what’s key about that new model?
I would say, technologically wise, it’s got a strong suite of features and the standard specification is very strong. I guess the word I’d use inside and out is designed. I think the outside of the car is for me the best-designed Vauxhall for 12 years, since the first Insignia, which I loved.
I’d say Mokka takes the segment forward in terms of design, it’s not just another car that’s vaguely the same as lots of other cars in that segment.
The recent merger of Vauxhall parent firm PSA and FCA formed a new super-carmaker containing Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Peugeot and several other brands, as well as Vauxhall and its European sibling, Opel.
But for now, Vauxhall fleet boss James Taylor says everything is business as usual.
“It’s early days so we’re having the initial discussions across the business in all departments, more probably about back offices and where we’ve got joint suppliers and negotiated savings and stuff like that, rather than working practices,” he tells Company Car Today. “But clearly going forwards, we need to make sure that we’re not competing against each other with the FCA group, in the same way we try and ensure we don’t compete with each other across Citroen, DS, Peugeot.
He admits the car brands aren’t the biggest potential overlap, though adding Fiat Professional into a light commercial portfolio that already had Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall brings similar vehicles together under one roof.
“But it’s exciting times. We’ll have to see as we go through this year quite what it all means, in terms of how we will work together going into future years.”
QWhat are you expecting from the Mokka in terms of volume?
I would expect it’s going to sell a similar number to Crossland and Grandland, so you’re probably looking at about 25,000 a year. Obviously, that’s in a full year; the first year will be a bit lighter because we’ve missed Q1.
The number one job is to protect the residuals, as we’ve done with Corsa. If you look at Corsa, there has been no dealer pre-registration since we launched that car more than a year ago. We’ve managed to retain the launch residual value position and the plan is very much to then replicate that with Mokka. Again, probably for year one we’ll have to see, with supply constraints, where we sit. Certainly in the first year it’s going to be largely a retail and user-chooser car.
Because of it being that little bit bigger than Corsa, hopefully from an electric point of view it starts to get more towards a bigger volume opportunity. With the BiK differences, everybody wants to move towards electric to save the money, because if you compare the taxation for a traditional C-segment car versus what it was 10 years ago, it was certainly over 50% more when I last looked, and is probably even higher now.
QCan you outline how Crossland, and Mokka differ in terms of the appeal and the potential audience, because from the outside they look like they’re sitting in the same segment?
They’ve got slightly different jobs. I’d say the Crossland is perhaps more akin to a traditional MPV; it’s an SUV with more MPV-like capabilities. It’s got a little bit more space, it’s a bit wider etc. And I’d say the Mokka is appealing perhaps more towards couples and younger families where you don’t need quite as much space, and then you’d migrate to the Crossland.
I think that the redesign of that car has been excellent. It gets the new front-end family look, which you’ll also get on the Grandland in October, and it does make it very striking. So again I’m optimistic, SUVs are not the biggest segment in terms of true fleet, but we will have all bases covered in that segment and therefore we should be up among the top sellers, if not the segment leader.
QAnd what are you expecting from electric in terms of volumes into fleets? You have previously said that you expected Corsa to be 10-15% electric.
If we take Corsa last year, overall we’re probably at about a 7% mix on electric, although the Corsa-e didn’t hit showrooms until basically, the week before the dealerships shut in March, so effectively you had half a year.
TAYLOR selects his stand-out cars
VAUXHALL ASTRA GTE
If you go really far back, racing toy cars in the garden, my favourite car at the time was a white, yellow and red Astra GTE, with black rear windows. I remember in a friend’s garden we set up this elaborate set of drainpipes and raced cars down it.PRESENT
I’d have to say the Mokka BEV, as it’s my current car. I love the design of it, I think is the best car we have designed for a while, inside out. I’ve made the move to electric and I won’t have a non-electric car again now.FUTURE
VAUXHALL NEW ASTRA
We had a sneak preview of the next-generation Astra, and it looks fantastic. The Astra design, a bit like Mokka, actually does something a little bit different. There are some really innovative ideas on the car.
QHow do you read the market’s pace of change to electric vehicles?
The adoption of electric in the marketplace perhaps hasn’t been at the same rate that I was expecting last year. And this is just my personal view, not the corporate view. I thought there’d be a bit more of a natural movement towards electric. Now, maybe Covid and the way the TCO works has possibly slowed that down, or possibly I overcalled how much the market would move, but I thought there would be more of a natural transition. On a total cost basis you can make an electric Corsa stack up if you’re doing 10,000 miles a year.
But then there perhaps hasn’t been that underlying demand. Having said all that, you look to the web traffic and it runs really strong on electric so there’s clearly a lot of people that are interested, but not quite willing. But I’m convinced it’s going to come because when you drive the products, you’re not going to want to go back to an ICE vehicle. So everything’s in favour of people making that switch but clearly there’s still a little bit of innate resistance which I think will dissipate as we go through this year and next. And as more people know people that have got an electric car, it becomes more of a normal choice.
In terms of Mokka we’re looking a little bit supply constrained on the all-electric for the year. We’re thinking we’ll do 10% electric with our supply constraints, but again, my ambition would be that we could generate an order mix that was much nearer the 15% mark.
QWhat are your targets overall for this year in terms of what would constitute a successful 2021?
I wrote a plan at the start of the year, and I would expect us to deliver, on car and van overall, just over a percentage point in share growth. Because in reality, we lost that with having no Mokka last year. So getting Mokka back this year, plus Crossland facelift and Grandland facelift, and we are taking an awful lot of orders on electric commercial vehicles with the new Vivaro-e.
All those points will eventually add up and we’d recover and do a bit more; somewhere around a share point of growth would be what I am targeting across the business for 2021.
We also carried quite a strong order book into this year. Some of that was, I think, delays in customers ordering until right at the end of the year last year because of all the uncertainty on Covid. I think we’ve seen that in some of the stats and it will get us off to a strong start this year that’s also going to help with that share growth because a lot of those cars would have, in a normal year, been registered last year.
Obviously, there will be an element of that across the whole marketplace as well, but I think we were perhaps a little more affected than average so I’m hoping that catch-up will also give us an extra boost this year.
Q Is the recent Insignia facelift something of a swansong for that sector, or is there still significant volume to be worth being in it?
I think we’ve got Insignia now for at least another few years, obviously we’ve just had the mid-cycle enhancement. I think it probably remains to be seen as to what the next iteration of Insignia is. And I put it on two levels. One is, is that market moving towards SUVs? Kind of, yes it is. And two, how does it look with electrification, because by the time we come to replace insignia, obviously we’re another few years closer to the all-electric world. And then if you think of the lifecycle of that product, then that’s clearly going to have a bearing on what we bring to market. So, I’d say with those two factors, it’s probably hard to say today exactly what is going to replace that car, when it comes to be replaced.
QYou’ve already streamlined the Insignia range, with the Tourer being dropped last year. Does that imply a terminal decline?
Tourer went because volumes are very small and again from a job-need point of view, we kept the Astra Tourer that we build at Ellesmere Port. So that covered that base, certainly from a load-capacity point of view.
A lot of mainstream manufacturers have exited that segment, premium brands have been very aggressive and it makes pricing more challenging. Probably the move away from diesel makes it a bit more challenging as well.
Because I guess a lot of drivers in that segment will be 40% tax payers, then a move into either electric or PHEV makes an awful lot of sense for them. That’s going to completely squeeze down the ICE-only opportunity, which is what we’ve seen with Insignia really. A lot of our traditional corporate accounts would have a hierarchy and you get an Astra then you get a basic Insignia and then you get a higher-spec Insignia. Those Insignia users have largely migrated to Grandlands, be that ICE or indeed for some of them into PHEV.
That kind of move has already happened, so that segment of the market has been the most squeezed really over the past five years.
TAYLOR ON… EV adoption post-Covid
“Will people think electric is a better option because they’re not doing as many trips, so range is less important? Or will people not go far enough to make the saving on fuel worthwhile? It’ll be interesting to see mileages once the economy opens back up.”