Fleet interviews

Collaboration is key

Close collaboration between FCA Group departments and customers is helping its brands to provide an ever-improving service to the fleet sector.

The group’s overall fleet offering – including vehicles, dealer network service and fleet-specific initiatives – has taken significant steps forward in recent years and this progress is set to continue.

“If you look at our share in the fleet market, we are fighting above our weight which comes back to the way we work in partnership with our customers,” says Laurence Hagger, head of used cars, remarketing, rental, contract hire and leasing.

“We are not about sell and go – its detrimental in the long term – we are here for the long haul and our customers can see there is a spirit of partnership all the way through dealing with us.”

An example of this is the way a customer – whether it is a contract hire and leasing customer or end-user – has one point of contact for FCA’s five distinct brands: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Fiat Professional and Jeep.

Matt Niles, national fleet sales manager, says: “One of our big strengths is that we can have one person having a conversation on behalf of our different brands, which means a fleet decision-maker doesn’t have to have five different relationships.

“Our contracts can also have multiple brands on them, it’s not a different contract for each brand. It’s just efficient.”

Niles says the way the organisation works in partnership is also demonstrated through its dealer network, which largely offers its different brands on the same sites, making it easier for customers.

“This is something that sets us apart in the market and we take a pride in that,” says Hagger. “Having the brands together means our customers are often taken by surprise with the depth of what we can offer and the quality of what we have.”

The additions to Alfa Romeo’s range in recent years may have dominated media headlines, but it is the arrival of FCA’s first electric vehicles which is now creating an extra “buzz” about 2020, he adds.

Fiat’s fully electric Ducato van goes on sale this year, as does the Jeep Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid. A battery electric 500e is also revealed in this edition (see page 10).

The Ducato Electric will be available with multiple configurations to match the diesel engine line-up, including panel van and chassis-cab variants.

Two range options will be offered thanks to a modular battery configuration. The shorter-range version has the full 1.9-tonne payload, while an extended range model that uses more batteries will be able to travel further, but it means a lower load capacity.

FCA has also taken weight out of the van to compensate for the weight of the batteries. The cubic capacity is unchanged from the diesel variant.

Ducato Electric will also be available with different charging options, so customers will be able to choose their technology dependent on whether they need to rapid charge as part of their vehicle duty cycles, or if the ability to fast charge will be sufficient.

“We are in a great position with the new products that are coming through and this means we can have a different conversation with our customers,” says Niles.

“In some ways we are catching up with other manufacturers, in other ways we are at the forefront of the market.

“For example, everyone else has gone in with small electric vans first, but we’ve gone all in with a large van. The technical data we’ve received tells us a very good story and that will trickle down the range.

“It’s not us following, it’s us saying ‘this is what you asked for, so here you go’. Ducato, in my marketplace, is by far the biggest share of volume so it is rewarding that it fits so well with some of our largest customers.”

While fleet interest in the Ducato Electric has been high, demand for the diesel models continues to be strong with “a really positive Quarter Three and Quarter Four” for orders.

Part of this is due to the launch of a refreshed model with the availability of a nine-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, which, at its launch, was described as a ‘game-changer’ for the model.

Ducato also continues to be the leading model in the ambulance sector. “This is has given us some incredible momentum and our team feelsº a real sense of achievement,” says Niles.

“We are very mindful that we need to continue supporting the trusts and converters in the marketplace because there are a lot of positives from our performance in this market.“ Not just from volumes, but for Fiat Professional as a brand because this sector is about much more than just selling vans that can be converted into ambulances.

“It’s also about aftersales, parts and customer service, and the fact these vehicles are so popular with the NHS Trusts is a testament to the quality of the product. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and we’re always looking for how we can improve.”