Company Car Today

Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Tim White, Head of Fleet, Hyundai Motor UK

Hyundai is making big strides in fleet and with electric vehicles, most recently evidenced by the arrival of the radical new Ioniq 5, the first of a family of Ioniq-branded EVs.

Would you say it’s an exciting time for Hyundai, with new product giving you a reason to be interesting to fleets?

Absolutely. As ever with Hyundai, we seem to have so many new models coming through at such fast pace, but even by our standards 2020 and 2021 have been incredible in the number of new models.

While it’s great, we’ve now got the art of trying to get all of that communicated to our still quite young fleet relationship database. There is so much to talk to them about with everything we’ve launched; Ioniq 5, Tucson plug-in and hybrid and Kona electric, including the model year 21 refresh, are the three main ones that I want my team talking to customers about, but without overlooking the rest of the range.

The Ioniq 5 is giving us that lift, in the sense of the brand PR, the brand credentials, because it is such an amazing bit of tech. I think we’re getting attention from more customers now about that car, which will ultimately then domino into additional sales of other cars.

Would you say that the Ioniq 5 has a big job in terms of being the poster child for your fleet ambitions, and attracting a different sort of customer?

I think the car itself lifts the brand credentials. We’ve still got a job to do to communicate the fleet credentials of the brand, and that car helps us do it.

This car is bringing us into new territory with the senior employee or brand-conscious user-chooser who would probably never really have considered a Hyundai, even with the great cars we’ve had coming through in the past couple of years. The Ioniq 5 gives that driver the range, the electrification, and ultimately a car that is going to be desired, where maybe those brand-conscious, perhaps more senior user-chooser purchasers, would not have come to the brand.

How hard is it to establish your credentials as a fleet brand and convince people of your new consistency of approach to the corporate market?

Given the fact that we’ve now had, ultimately, two years of sustainable approach to fleet, we would like to think that customers are already seeing that consistency; we’re now communicating with them regularly, we’re not changing our strategy, it’s consistent. And the product is definitely complementing that. I would like to think that that journey is under way, but I’m not naive enough to think that it’s a job done; we still need to continue to, in terms of a sustainable communication with our marketing and our brand, make sure that we’re at the forefront of fleet decision-makers’ minds.

We can’t allow the vehicles to just sell themselves, albeit Ioniq 5 is helping us do that. We have to consistently be telling the story about the brand, the products we’ve got, and why they should consider Hyundai.

Do you consider the past two years the groundwork in fleet ahead of the new raft of product coming through?

Absolutely, we’ve had two years of spade work in terms of building that customer base. And ultimately a lot of that was through that Covid period, so it was a good time to do it. But obviously now, as we’re seeing policies and ordering from policies being lifted and normality returning, this is that period where, due to good availability, we’re now reaping rewards. The end-user engagement and yield is definitely increasing. And we’re looking to grow that even further – the percentage of customers that we have buying at the moment is clearly on the increase, and we want to continue that journey in terms of looking to get as much engagement as we can with potential customers about why they might be choosing other products and how we get them directed to our own products.

Where are you finding you’re scoring wins? Are there particular types of fleets or sectors or areas that you’re finding particular success?

We’ve had some good successes with kind of businesses that are clearly on an environmental fast track to meeting CO2 for their own business purposes

With Kona Electric, we’ve had that job-need request where somebody says I’m going to put this section of drivers into an electric vehicle, therefore Kona has led to that tender-led or request-for-quote-led exercise that ultimately finds it is the car a fleet should take.

Where we’ve had less traction is obviously with the individual driver choice. So that’s the area, with Ioniq 5, with Tucson, with Santa Fe PHEV, that we need to work on in terms of reaching those user-chooser individual orders to complement any batch job-need wins that we will continue to pick up.

What are your goals in terms long-term growth? You talked about 3% fleet market share?

I think 3% is the realistic ambition for the end of the year. And I’d like to think that with what we’ve got in the order bank and what we’re planning, if supply holds up, then that 3% could become more than 3%.

But 3% is our ambition with a view to then increasing to 4% by the end of 2022. And while that will always be seen as the benchmark to success or failure personally, it’s more around the content of end-user sales, versus what we would refer to as unnamed fleet volume.

The user-chooser driver consideration is really where I would see the success because you know that somebody is actually choosing that car over somebody else’s, as opposed to agreeing a deal based on the financials and we don’t actually know who’s having that car. So the end-user content, where we describe the 8% moving up to 20%, to me, that needs to grow again, and represent circa 40%, at least, of our fleet volume.

Is that 4% share a natural ceiling? Or do you think that there is further to go, as you look into the longer term?

There is further to go. When you look at the segmentation of our database, we’ve probably got only two-thirds of the fleet universe qualified. Whereas everybody else that’s into fleet has probably got most of that qualified already.

Then even when you look at the two-thirds that we have qualified, we’ve only really got a relationship or supply agreement with a third of them. And then even on that third, we’ve probably only got a quarter actually consistently buying our product. So in other words, we’re on policy, but they’re not actually all buying. Some of that is through timing (they’re still coming out of the Covid world) and some of it is purely that we are there but the drivers are not choosing our products. Ioniq 5 and Tucson PHEV will help that.

So it’s a combination of increasing the live agreements buying from us, as well as finding those next businesses in terms of qualifying into an agreement. Then there’s the other third, which we’ve yet to reach.

The only threat to us in the sense of that journey and getting to those growth figures is the fact that we have certain vehicles that people are being drawn to, but we’re not seeing the full breadth of the range being taken. Part of that is deliberate; we don’t set ourselves out to sell lots of i10s, i20s and i30s into fleet, so we’re having to work harder with those other products to meet this market share, whereas others perhaps, would still engage in a small-car offensive.

As a pioneer of hydrogen, where are you now with that powertrain?

From a fleet perspective, I’d say the fleets are still asking about it, but clearly they’re in the minority. It is only a selective set of large corporates, along with some smaller, owner-driver type SMEs, who have an early adoption philosophy on hydrogen and therefore come to us for smaller opportunities.

I’d say in the current fleet toolbox, it’s reactive rather than proactive.

We are discussing opportunities with our Nexo model on a monthly basis, there is always something in play for Nexo. But we’re working on a sold-order-only basis; we don’t build that car for stock.

Have you changed the retailer approach to fleet in light of the new approach to the corporate sector?

We’re trying hard, because of the user-chooser opportunity with Ioniq 5 and Tucson, to make sure that every one of our dealers can embrace a fleet opportunity should a company car driver walk through the door. I’d like to think that our business programme, and our reward to the dealers, now means that anybody can recognise a small or local fleet opportunity and not think that they’re unable to support that customer.

That’s important when you’ve got the visibility of the brand increasing more and more, and people perhaps walking into a smaller, more rural dealer. The horror would be if one of those got turned away because they were a fleet or company car driver. But I’d like to think now through the interest in the brand and the business programme that we work with, that there’s a reason for everybody to sell a car to a company car driver.

White on...

Car supply issues

Vehicles are coming through, we just don’t have the vast supply in stock that we’ve had in the past. The right product along with the availability are the two things that make my job a lot easier, and it doesn’t feel as though our job is currently hampered. We’ve done a decent job of keeping customers happy.

Tim White Hyundai 2018

ISN’T IT IONIQ

The new Ioniq 5 is the beginning of a push upmarket that will also encompass an Ioniq 6 saloon and Ioniq 7 SUV in the next two years.

“Six and seven don’t replace current vehicles, they take us into new territory of a more premium offering that perhaps we don’t really play in at the moment,” Hyundai fleet boss Tim White explains to Company Car Today. “It expands the range, and complements the more generic models that we have.

“It only does one thing, and that is to strengthen the brand. Hopefully, that will lead to an increase in sales overall, across the whole range.

Adding a plug-in hybrid powertrain to the Tucson has also given it new fleet appeal, with White saying it was hard to penetrate the market with the previous Tucson, when fleets already had the likes of the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai on their lists. The PHEV and hybrid credentials have meant the Tucson forms a vital part of the company’s trident of fleet leaders, along with the Ioniq 5 and Kona Electric.

Top picks

White selects his stand-out cars

Past:

Vauxhall Calibra

In my mid-20s, as I began my career in sales, I was lucky to have had a Vauxhall Calibra 2.0 Turbo 4×4. It was really a fantastic-looking car. If you updated that design with latest light technology, big wheels and a few tweaks now, it would look as good today as it did then.

Present - Hyundai Ioniq 5

Present:

Hyundai Ioniq 5

I am biased but the new Ioniq 5 for me heralds a new era for zero–emission motoring. Its stand-out design, industry-leading charging capability, premium quality and dedicated new EV platform will enhance people’s perceptions of our brand.

Present - Hyundai Ioniq 5

Future:

Hyundai RM20E

Whilst this is currently a rolling test-bed, it’s a showcase of what could be to come for our zero-emission high performance range of the future. I, for one, am excited.

Present - Hyundai Ioniq 5