Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Renault UK’s head of sales operations & remarketing, Mark Dickens
Renault has undertaken a complete overhaul of its model range during 2018, cutting prices, adding kit and reshaping trim levels under what it calls the EasyLife programme. Fleet sales operations and remarketing boss Mark Dickens talks us through the impact and consequences of those changes, and his other main points of focus as we move into 2019.
QHow has your 2018 been, given that there’s been so much going on across the industry and beyond?
The way I would sum up 2018 is ‘according to plan’. We started out the year with complete visibility of WLTP and what was going to happen with the engines, the supply, the model range and everything else around it.
The dealers didn’t get WLTP, didn’t understand it; there was a confusing message going out on WLTP and today there are still business customers that don’t quite understand it.
At the same time, we had quite a complicated range so we said let’s draw the line – what do people want? In the mid-range of cars that most people are going to go for, what is important to the customer? The car needs to look great from the outside but be really usable on the inside. We were going to go through this complete change with all the engine specifications of the car, and engineering wise, and the easiest thing to do is to change the range at the same time as you change the engines. So, you’ll come to market with a much more efficient range of vehicles, and we called it EasyLife.
DACIA’S FLEET OPPORTUNITY
Renault’s budget brand, Dacia, has been almost entirely retail-focused since it launched into the UK in 2012, but the low P11D price could make the cars attractive for corporate users, and back-office issues that have hindered Renault’s field sales team being able to offer fleet terms on Dacia product have now been ironed out.
“Dacia is a retail package, that’s the point. It’s low margin, and does what it says,” explains fleet boss Mark Dickens. “However, we have sold somewhere in the region of 2000 units on core fleet without trying, because given the low entry price, and the fact that it’s a Renault underneath, the whole-life cost is attractive. It’s not a car we’ll be out there discounting massively to sell loads of volume, but there is an opportunity on Dacia, particularly on Duster and Sandero.
“We’ve been system-constrained internally, but for 2019 that will be addressed,” Dickens said. “We do have an opportunity with Dacia, and we have an ambition. We don’t set out to do 10% market share on fleet from Dacia because that’s not the brand, but there is definitely an opportunity on it, particularly in salary sacrifice and NHS public sector.”
QWhat impact did that have on the Renault model range?
The Clio, for example, went down from 39 versions to 11, and Trafic passenger went from 26 to 4. It means different things in different parts of the range, but they are two examples. Captur went from 24 versions to 10. So, for a fleet customer, it’s really easy to pick that car, and now with free-of-charge metallic paint, which we do with all vehicles.
The EasyLife range coincided with WLTP, so as a WLTP engine was introduced we changed the trim range on the cars. You have a Play, which is the entry version, Iconic, which is mid-range and GT-Line at the top of the range. There are three versions in every range, choose the engine and if you want to add options you can do, but we’ve kept the options to a minimum.
Renault is also WLTP-compliant across all of our car range. The net effect of doing all of this is a reduction in P11D price by as much as £3300 on Koleos, while on a Clio it is as high as a £1800.
The RV guides have reacted positively, saying: ‘Hang on, you’ve got more spec on the cars, the reduced range gives it more appeal as it’s very easy to tell which cars you’ve got now, and we like what you’re doing on used cars’. Put all that in the mixer and it’s come out as reduced P11D, easier to select the cars, more spec and increased residual values.
The Iconic trim, which is the mid-range spec in all the models, is the one that we are aiming at fleet. It was the one that we said has to have satellite-navigation as standard, it’s also got to have the R-Link system, and it’s got to have nice big alloy wheels; it needs to be something that someone is going to want, which means it’s got to look good from the outside. It also needs to have ADAS [assistance systems] and parking sensors.
QWhat sort of residual value increase has the changes led to?
On Clio we had a percentage increase of just less than five percentage points; the entry version of the Koleos was up by five percentage points, too. The lowest was on Captur which was just under one percentage point change, but that’s because the RV was holding strong anyway. The same principle will apply next year on vans, although it won’t be exactly comparable.
I would say the Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1 I had in 1984 was my first real car. It was where I met my wife! My dad’s still got one with 6500 miles on the clock.
QHow are you looking to progress your electric vehicle business and positioning?
We appointed two EV experts in 2017. Those guys didn’t have a sales target, that was the important thing. Their job title is business development manager EV, and their role was to seek out businesses’ plans for the future, so we could understand where a business was trying to take their fleet.
That was quite hard initially, because not many people knew where they wanted to take it, apart from to make it greener. So over time, we’ve developed that business, and of course once you start to discuss with people their future plans, you become part of the process.
In quite a big change for us and as a bold change this year, we went to some of the big corporates who were saying ‘we’ve got a mid-term plan’. We said: ‘OK, you’ve got a mid-term plan for five years but you don’t know what’s coming, so how do you know where to take your fleet in five years’ time?’.
That is why we made a very bold decision to say that we would sign a non-disclosure agreement with each customer. If you reciprocate that and openly share your mid-term plan, we will openly share our product plan of what is coming in the future. So, you can truly say in four years’ time my fleet can move to this level because I know at that point I will have these vehicles available to me in the product range. And then to cement that we took them to our tech centre in France to show them the range.
QHow many of your business customers did you do that with?
Quite a few: large corporates, and some councils who are considering going to full electric. It’s really hard to say I want my fleet to be ‘there’ in three years’ time.
It’s intellectual property; in agreeing that you are going to openly share your plans, it’s actually really refreshing to know you can have this discussion about what is going on in the future and what we are going to bring to market in the future. That’s been a big part, it’s a real strategy rather than saying I want to sell 500 Zoes next year, how am I going to do it? And it then leads to discussions about the immediacy of their requirements.
Up until this point we’ve been learning – you’ve got the technology, you’ve got the car, you learn about the customer use. Now we have learned and can apply that knowledge to other fleets
Electric vehicle supply
“This year was about stabilising the business while we go through WLTP, and then next year we can grow. EVs has been slightly different in that we just can’t build them quick enough. It is just crazy business, both on Zoe and Kangoo ZE.”