Renault Trucks: 'Cost champion' message to drive growth

It’s been an interesting year for Renault Trucks in the UK. In fact, it’s been a very interesting year for the whole of the brand globally. Renault Trucks has been part of the Volvo Group for almost 15 years, but during this time it has effectively operated as a completely separate company as far as admin and customer-facing costs were concerned.

However, the two companies have exploited synergies behind-the-scenes through joint research and development work in cab, chassis and driveline, as well as certain limited combined production offerings which have helped the group leverage its skills and resources.

Of course, shareholders are very demanding and the people investing in Volvo Group are no different.

This resulted in further integration between Renault Trucks and Volvo Trucks in autumn 2015, with many of Volvo Group’s European subsidiaries announcing certain administration and back office functions would be merged to support the two brands.

It could be argued this is not before time and has made sense for many years as, unlike other manufacturers who have undergone similar corporate re-structures, Volvo Group appears to have undertaken the back office merger in reverse.

That is to say the standard operating procedure for many, post-takeover, has been to almost immediately merge the back office functions and then look at research and development, and production joint ventures later.

Either way the result is the same, an interesting blend of various shared cabs, driveline and engines, with a smattering of unique key features which help differentiate the brands from each other.

The above scenario places greater emphasis, and arguably greater pressure, on the staff and management within  each brand to deliver the differences: a responsibility that also falls on their dealer networks, who are the people  that ultimately deliver the ‘brand values’ to customers.

It is with this background in mind that the recently-announced new Renault Trucks management team has outlined the key developments and performance of the company in 2015 and also provided an outlook for the truck and van market in 2016.

Renault Trucks UK restructure

The restructure in the UK has been reasonably controlled with managing director Arne Knaben, who formerly held this position with Volvo Trucks, becoming group managing director with responsibility for both brands.

Nigel Butler continues as commercial director, with Amanda Hiatt looking after both brands as marketing director.

Tony Davis has become aftermarket and sales support director with James Charnock being named used truck director.

Richard Chamberlain will look after the Renault Master range as LCV manager.

Brand values

For many years, Renault Trucks has focused on the ‘profitable truck’ aspect for its advertising campaigns and messages rather than specific truck product features.

This will continue throughout 2016, but with a slight re-direction or refresh.

‘Customer operational cost champion’ is the phrase Renault Trucks hopes commercial vehicle operators will associate with its products for the next few years.

2015: a good year

According to Butler, “all the ranges are performing well” with the Range T showing the greatest growth of 107% to 1,483 registrations.

This is followed by the Range C and K (the 2016 International Truck of the Year runner-up) at 84% to 435 registrations and the Range D at 69% to 305 registrations.

Overall, the UK Euro 6 market share has almost doubled from 3.3% in 2014 to 5.7% in 2015, and includes many conquest customers in both fleet and retail, such as Cemex, Dyce, Tulloch, Gist and Yusen.

As far as light commercial vehicle registrations are concerned, Renault Trucks had a record order intake with a 70% increase in year-on-year registrations helped by a more LCV focused network and dedicated staff.

Butler says registrations have also been helped by new offers like the chassis cab based ‘ready for business’ bodied programme and a high uptake for its low cost finance offers.

The dealer network

Renault Trucks’s dealer network has historically been seen as a weakness in a very competitive UK truck market.

However, this has been addressed with the first-time MOT pass rate improved to 94% and customer satisfaction close to 80% for vehicles back on the road in under six hours.

Butler says the new Euro 6 trucks require a greater understanding of how the new technology can be maximised and that is why Renault Trucks has appointed six network-based handover specialists to further improve both customer satisfaction and fuel economy.

He adds the parts initiative which provides fitted parts with a two-year warranty has been a great success.

A further area of improvement has been the establishment of 13 dealers with test lanes within the network from Peterhead to Portsmouth.

At the same time, the sales force has been bolstered by the addition of eight staff.

Finally, its apprentice programme moved to a new provider, Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire.

It currently has 86 apprentices, 19 of which are expected to graduate this year.

BRS and financing

Volvo Group has owned BRS (previously known as British Road Services) for many years and this has helped Renault Trucks offer a full contract hire service.

Under this, more than 500 new contracts were signed in 2015, growing the fleet to 2,000 vehicles.

As far as finance is concerned, 40% of new vehicles are funded by its in-house finance house (RTFS), with a further 15% financed by BRS.

Plans for this year

Butler expects around 5% growth this year in the ‘medium duty’ sector to 7,600 units, with ‘heavy duty’ showing only marginal growth and mostly in-line with 2015.

Renault Trucks is looking to open its order book for the one major omission in its product line-up, an offering at the 7.5-tonne weight point with the Range D.

While it is not a key weight compared to a number of years ago, it is still seen as a necessary inclusion. There will also be a Euro 6 Master van and a mini mid-lift on the Range T.

The Warwick-based Renault Trucks team appears happy with progress as it becomes more integrated with its Volvo Trucks parent, while this year will see a limited but important set of additions to its offering at both product and network level.

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