Fleet interviews

Perfect timing on electric

New FCA fleet and remarketing director Iain Montgomery has set out three priorities for 2020: partnerships – with leasing companies and customers – sustainable growth and new product opportunities.

Montgomery was appointed in January following the departure of Andrew Waite. Previously sales director for cars, he has extensive automotive experience in remarketing, dealers, fleet account management, direct sales channels and corporate accounts, giving him ideal depth and breadth of knowledge for his latest position.

That depth and breadth is matched by the FCA model line-up, which stretches from city car (500) to large van (Ducato); mass market (Fiat) to premium (Alfa Romeo); and sporty (Abarth) to multi-purpose (Jeep).

“This year, that range aligns itself with the fleet market with the launch of our hybrid and electric models, including the Panda, 500 and Ducato,” says Montgomery.

“As a total proposition, we are in the best place we’ve ever been. We have a robust plan for the new products with a clear objective of where they sit and their route to market.”

He recognises that FCA needs to “look at the market differently” compared with more established brands, particularly in the premium sector.

“With Alfa Romeo, we go against the 3 Series, A4 and C-Class in a sector where we win plaudits for our performance,” Montgomery says. “With our model-year 20 changes, we have enhanced the autonomous driving technology to take the Stelvio to another level (see page 20). In a fast paced industry, we are confident our product is best in class when competing for customers because we have the technology to match the design.

“There’s a lot of love and passion for the brand but our ongoing challenge is to overcome stigma on reliability. We have to get people into the car so they can experience the phenomenal drive and see that it is a viable alternative to the ‘Big Three’. We have a consolidated approach from our team and our network to treat every Alfa customer with the respect they deserve.”

For Fiat, the plan is to maintain the momentum created in building strong residual value across the range in steering away from short-term high-cost business – last year it almost halved its rental sales – to improve the total cost of ownership competitiveness.

“We can’t do short-term business growth with short-term rewards which causes suffering in the long-term,” Montgomery adds.

He is also opening access to non-company car drivers through the personal contract hire funding solutions offered by in-house leasing provider Leasys.

“We are offering solutions to companies and individuals, giving them access to product they previously might not have had,” he says. “The outlook in April 2020 is very different to April 2018 and the corporate landscape is also different in the way that customers look at traditional schemes versus salary sacrifice or PCH.”

But the big opportunity is the electric models. The fully electric 500e strengthens the case for urban fleets, while plug-in hybrid Renegade offers low emissions motoring with no compromise on its off-road capability. The electric Ducato will present significant opportunities “to talk about something new” in the light commercial sector.

“We have to be confident about plug-in hybrid and battery electric. We are joining later than others, but when it’s less than 7% of the market and we are at the point where benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax reduces in April, we are seeing the market change at a time when we have the newest product,” Montgomery says.

“The timing is perfect with the changes in legislation and BIK.”

He is keeping an eye on urban mobility solutions, including car share, where FCA wants to be “the number one choice of supplier to those businesses”, but adds, “first and foremost, we are a manufacturer and we have to facilitate these solutions, but balanced with our car sales.”

Montgomery has a clear objective to grow FCA’s fleet market share – it’s a major focus for 2020 – but it has to be done in the right way for the business.

“With our new product in 2020, we have the confidence we can grow through sustainable business with relationships that are ongoing with customers and leasing companies,” he says.

“Whether it’s one car or a fleet, we have to understand their needs and provide a solution. That’s key to maintaining a strong relationship. Our success will be built on partnerships with individuals and companies, strengthening the dealer network and making sure we maximise the opportunities presented by our product offering.”