Suzuki now have three or four different models that are actually fit for fleet – they’ve never had that before… – Graeme Jenkins
SEEMS as though Graeme Jenkins has only been Suzuki’s head of fleet for five minutes – well in reality, since January anyway!
Car & Van Funding caught up with him at the Geneva Motor Show, where Suzuki were launching the new Swift and we found out Jenkins has big fleet plans for the Japanese brand.
Where do you think Suzuki’s key opportunity is in fleet?
“Well, the first thing to say is that for the first year or so – it will be developing the Suzuki brand and awareness.
“So, we’ll be engaging with the contract and leasing industry – which we haven’t done historically. With this in mind, we’re recruiting for a contract hire and leasing manager – that will be key to our success and ultimately form long-term relationships with the leasing industry.”
It seems like a strong portfolio of models, so when you’ve built these relationships, where do you see Suzuki fitting in with other manufacturers in terms of fleet?
“I think it’s fair to say that the market itself is shifting towards petrol technology – it’s certainly moving towards smaller cars.
“If you look at Suzuki’s product range, from Ignis through to Celerio, new Swift, Vitara and S-Cross, there’s actually quite a wide range – something Suzuki hasn’t had historically and they’re all fit for fleet.”
The focus seems to be on lightness with new models such as the Swift, this surely has to be good for you in terms of CO2 and BIK?
“Yes, very much so, we now have three models with CO2 less than 100g/km and these are all petrol engines. Of course we’re making the cars lighter through technology announced here at the Geneva Motor Show, that bodes well in terms of the engines and how frugal they are and that’s backed up by these boosterjet engines, which are incredibly powerful considering their size.
“If you then add the mild hybrid that’s available, bringing the C02 below the magic 100g/km threshold – down to 94 and 97g/km respectively – then it makes it fit for fleet. Suzuki now have three or four different models, that are actually fit for fleet – they’ve never had that before and of those three or four models, all of them will represent quite significant fleet volume aspirations, of over 10,000 cars per annum.
“New Swift will bring in 20,000 cars in the first year – it’s by far our biggest volume seller.”
Wow, that 10,000 is a big number – where do you see this new business coming from?
“Well, what we won’t be doing is going for the more distressful short-cycle business. What we will be concentrating on is the core fleet market.
“What percentage will go into the core fleet market will be split between fleet and retail. We’re at the start of a journey, but we’re working towards fleet representing 20% of the total number of units.”
New Swift is key, but what other models do you expect to contribute to that growth?
“Well, we certainly believe our other small car – the Ignis, doing fabulously, will be key. If you look at the Swift and Ignis, then start looking at the public sector – there’s just a natural fit there. With the mild-hybrid technology it should keep the CO2 down too – making the cost of ownership quite strong.
“If you then add the Vitara and S-Cross, also doing incredibly well at the moment – especially the Vitara – both in terms of the sales, with just over 11,000 Vitaras sold last year. The ones we’re seeing coming back at this early juncture are fetching really good remarking values.
“Ignis, Swift, in fact all these models make a compelling argument to put Suzuki on to your fleet policy – because it isn’t just one car anymore – it’s a range of cars.”
Are you going to have specific fleet staff in dealers to deal with this extra business?
“So, what we’re doing, with regard to our infrastructure is to get our team right internally – this is why we’re hiring a contract hire and leasing manager.
“The next stage is happening right now. We’re having a dealer think tank that’s dedicated to fleet and what that would look like? We want to be very inclusive to the dealer network – we’ve got 156 dealers and not all of them will end up being fleet operators. We want to make sure that they have the ability – should they choose to.
“Obviously we’ll look towards having certain resources in our fleet dealerships moving forward – but this is the start of the journey.”
Can you see there being a group of specialist dealers who will deal with fleet business – or will it be done centrally?
“Evolution will dictate that there will be two levels, although not two tiers of Suzuki dealers within the network and certainly one of those levels will be for those that operate in the fleet industry. What Suzuki uniquely brings in this regard, is being able to do business easily.
“So what do I mean by that? If we can create an environment where Suzuki is easy to do business with, from a local perspective, then you look at the 156 dealers and we do 40,000 cars at the moment – actually our dealer network is not much smaller than some of the major manufacturers at the moment.
“So our philosophy is to provide a local service, making it easy to do business with, complete with transparency and consistency with the contract hire and leasing sector with tiered pricing. We believe that customer-orientated focus, will actually attract people to the brand.”
How are you going to get the Suzuki message out to fleet managers?
“This is all about incremental business rather than substitutional business – in any way, shape or form. It’s about making it easy to do business with us – it’s incremental business and profitable business.
“We’re very fortunate to have a very profitable dealer network – the most profitable in the country in fact, and fleet will enhance it and because we’re going down the core fleet route, with the leasing industry, with the SME market and they’re the profitable channels. So no short cycle – no distressful actions!
“As far as numbers go, 5,000 cars is what we’ve done before we’ve started! So the goal in the next fiscal year is to do 7,500, thereafter 10,000 and our ultimate goal, at this stage is to get it up to 20,000 cars.”
How far away do you think the 20,000 is?
“Well, certainly the 7,500 will be achieved over the next year. To be fair to get to 20,000 is going to require another four or five years.”